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Rental bikes could be coming to Grand Forks

Rentable bikes could soon join buses on the list of public transportation options in Grand Forks if there is enough community interest, the city's Greenway Specialist Kim Greendahl said Friday.

Rentable bikes could soon join buses on the list of public transportation options in Grand Forks if there is enough community interest, the city's Greenway Specialist Kim Greendahl said Friday.

She has worked with the Greenway for almost 10 years, and said the idea of setting up bike rental racks to allow everyone to enjoy the Greenway's trails has been around for the past decade.

But the idea has gained more attention in the past year, she said, and such a service could be useful for both outdoor enthusiasts who want to hit the trails as well as college students and residents who need to travel across town to run errands or get to work.

"I started hearing more and more people asking if this is an option for the city of Grand Forks, and it just seemed like it was a good time to get a group together and talk about what kind of service we could provide," she said.

The Greenway Trail Users Advisory Group will look at options and begin preliminary discussions on the possible service at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Grand Forks Park District office.



Greendahl said there are two main options to run a public bike rental service.

The cheapest option would involve setting up a rental stand staffed by an employee who would check bikes in and out and take customers' payments.

But Greendahl said that might not be practical considering that paying an employee to stand in the booth for eight hours might cost more than the profit of renting a few bikes during that shift.

The other option, and one that several large universities and cities across America have chosen in recent years, is to install bike rental racks that allow users to check the bikes in and out by themselves.

Riders could swipe a membership card or use a credit card to rent the bike, and they would then be given a certain amount of time to return it to the same rack or other selected rental racks in town.

Greendahl said the disadvantage is these automated bikes can cost about $3,500 each -- a steep cost that allows for perks like tracking devices and other equipment to help locate the bike if it is lost or stolen.

Uncertain future


Bike rental services have become increasingly common across the United States, and these services are now offered in Minneapolis, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and several other college campuses and metro areas.

Greendahl said a public bike rental will only happen in Grand Forks if there is enough interest to warrant the upfront expenses and maintenance costs. She said the Greenway group and the city would need to answer a big question before any final decision could be made: "Is there a need for this?"

To get the answer, Greenway officials created an online survey available at http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/LX5PK3R that allows residents to weigh in on the idea. Comments will be taken until 5 p.m. April 13.

Greendahl said 28 people had responded by Friday evening, and many of those responders were in favor of bringing rental bikes to the city.

The rental service could be city-run, she said, or it could be operated by a private business or a partnership with UND. But Greendahl said funding for a rack system would probably come from transportation grants, sponsorships and other outside sources, and officials do not plan to seek tax dollars to fund the project they decide to bring the new service to town.

The final results of the online survey will be presented to the Greenway committee at its meeting next month.

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send email to rjohnson@gfherald.com .

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