(Via Star Advertiser)
There’s still much to be done, but organizers of Honolulu’s long-anticipated bike-share say they hope to have the program running in the heart of town by the first quarter of next year.
Staff with the nonprofit group Bikeshare Hawaii briefed City Council members Thursday on their efforts to launch the program, in which riders could access a network of small stations around town to rent and return bikes. The group, along with a mix of bicycling advocates and city and state leaders, aims to put Honolulu on the map with the more than 30 U.S. cities where residents and visitors can already access a bike-share.
“Of the U.S.’s top ten vacation destinations, Honolulu is the only major tourist market without a bikeshare system on the ground or in some phase of implementation,” a 2014 report prepared for the city by Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates said.
The local system is now envisioned to start in early 2016 with as many as 183 stations and nearly 1,700 bicycles inside a 5.1-square-mile area stretching from Kapahulu Avenue to River Street.
Previously, organizers had aimed to launch it this summer, but they say hiring staff took longer than expected.
Bikeshare and the city still need to secure the locations for those stations.
The group also has to secure most of the $10 million to $12 million in startup costs, through a mix of public and private sources. The group has so far secured about $1.3 million, mostly through the city, according to Bikeshare President and Chief Operating Officer Ben Trevino.
Trevino said that he’s confident the plans to secure station sites and startup dollars will go smoothly, keeping bike-share on schedule.
“We feel good. It’s a matter of finding the right partner,” he said of the potential funding source. “We think it’s possible to do it in that time frame.”
Organizers believe that fares from as many as 2 million annual bike-share trips should cover the approximately $3 million in annual costs to operate Honolulu’s bike-share program.
It would come after Mayor Kirk Caldwell and city transit leaders last fall launched Honolulu’s first protected bikeway along King Street, dubbed the Cycle Track. The highly controversial pilot project aims to be a leap forward in making the city more bike-friendly.
The Hawaii Bicycling League staunchly supports the Cycle Track, but many local drivers have expressed disdain for the change, saying the track’s design makes it more difficult for them to maneuver safely.
Bikeshare Hawaii plans to have a map out by the end of this month that shows where the group aims to set up each of its stations. Some 70 percent of the stations are slated to go on city property, and Bikeshare is preparing to meet with private landowners for the remainder, Trevino said.
Trevino said Bikeshare intends to pitch the idea to landowners by pointing to studies that found businesses in other bike-share cities saw their profits increase around the stations.
Residents who attended Thursday’s Council briefing expressed concerns that bike-share users — many of them international visitors to Oahu — have the proper education to use the bicycles on Honolulu’s crowded city streets.
Trevino said bike-share kiosks will likely feature instructions and safety tips in multiple languages, along with maps and pamphlets for riders to take with them.
“We’re trying to give them information every way we can,” he said Friday. “There is still a lot to be done, and there’s a lot that’s already been done.”