Getting around Greater Williamsburg on wheels might not just mean driving in a car anymore.
On Thursday, the Williamsburg City Council considered the effects of bringing in a consultant to look at the economic impact of a bike share program in Downtown Williamsburg.
A bike share provides users with the ability to pick up a bike in a self-service station and return the bike in the same or at another location in the service area, according to Erin Burke, principal planner for the City of Williamsburg.
Riders would be charged a fee for using the bike share. That fee would vary based on a users preferences. This means that a bike user could subscribe to the service and they could lower their costs, or you could have a onetime user and they would pay a little extra, Burke said.
Bike shares have become popular in recent years around large cities such as New York City or Washington D.C., according to Burke, but the City of Williamsburg is considering starting one in the area to promote bike use in the downtown area for tourists, students and residents.
“With Colonial Williamsburg and the college here, it just makes sense to collaborate on something like this and have that synergy,” city councilwoman Barbra Ramsey said.
Currently, Williamsburg has received only a bronze rating from The League of American Bicyclist as a bike-friendly city and one of the goals of this program is to move to a silver ranking, according to Burke.
More than meets the eyes
More than simply placing bikes around town goes into planning a bike share program, though.
Currently, bike share stations are costly investments because of the number of stations required and necessary maintenance. But, new apps and devices are being developed that will lower these costs. These apps create a similar experience to using Uber or Lyft. Users can easily locate bike share hotspots and track their own activity.
Two phases are necessary before approving a bike share program. The first phase involves developing an implementation plan, which requires bringing in a consultant to analyze the viability of a bike share program in Williamsburg.
“We don’t want to bring the consultant in to tell us that we should do their program,” city councilman Doug Pons said. “We want a consultant who will evaluate our community and identify the business plan and scale it out appropriately for us.”
This plan will take existing bike rental businesses in the area into consideration and possibly work in conjunction to create a functional bike share.
The first phase will be to plan a schedule for the project as well as figure estimates for construction and operation. This phase will consider economics and demographics in the area to analyze the fiscal predictions of a bike share.
The second phase is the development of an operations plan. This takes maintenance costs into consideration as well as analyzes use patterns across the area. These analyses are aimed at making a more popular and user-friendly program.
According to council members, benefits of a bike share will not only give students and residents easier access to downtown locations, but it will also create a new perk to entice tourists.
“The final stage is to encourage students and residents to use nonmotorized transportation and allow visitors to experience the city in a unique way,” Burke said.
No action by the City Council was required but research into finding a potential consultant is underway.