Photo courtesy Bewegen Technologies
Richmond has not yet finished the race to become a cycling mecca. “There’s a joke among urban planners,” says Brantley Tyndall, community engagement coordinator at Bike Walk RVA. “There are two kinds of cities: those with bike share and those that want it.” Richmond is riding somewhere in the middle. The city signed a $393,000 agreement in February with a Canadian company, Bewegen Technologies, to install and provide the first year of operations on a system that will include 220 bikes spread among 22 stations from the Museum District to Shockoe Bottom (to see a map, look up richmondgov.com/bikeped). A $1.06 million federal grant is helping to fund the program, and the city is contributing $280,000 toward the $1.34 million needed for its first phase.
Delivery of the bikes is expected late this fall or early next spring. Meanwhile, Trek Bicycle Co., which brands its bike-share system “Bcycle,” is asking the city to rename its program, announced as “The B.” While we wait for bikes to start appearing in colorful curbside racks, what is all the fuss about? Claims Tyndall: “It can be a tool to improve access to neighborhoods not well serviced by other transit systems, reduce parking demand, reduce average daily car traffic, increase healthy activities, and provide a pleasant way for both residents and visitors to experience Richmond.” Viewing the issue holistically is Peter Henry, associate professor of focused inquiry at Virginia Commonwealth University. Posits Henry: “I wouldn’t say a lack of transportation necessarily creates poverty in Richmond, but it’s part of the larger web of limiters that keep people in poverty.” For those without cars, a convenient network of bicycles may provide significant benefit by increasing their range of mobility.
The bikes are equipped with GPS tracking, allowing riders to see their time, speed and distance. There is an up-front cost for a 24-hour, weekly or annual pass ($6, $18 and $96, respectively), available to purchase at docking stations. The bikes can be dropped off at any station, and there are no additional fees if the bike is returned within 45 minutes. For those looking for an isolated cycle trip, there is the option of a single-ride pass for $1.75, which grants 45 minutes of pedal time.
“Richmond shines at the neighborhood level,” Henry says. “I think it’s here that a bike share will really benefit the city, in that it will allow out-of-towners to experience the parks, architecture, streets and shops of the city’s unique neighborhoods.”