The plan for a massively-expanded city bicycle sharing program, set to launch this fall, took another step toward fruition Friday, thanks to the stamp of approval from a City Council committee.
Chicago's Pedestrian and Traffic Safety Committee approved an ordinance allowing the city to contract with the Portland, Ore.-based Alta Bicycle Share, Inc., for the $19.5 million program, which would provide 3,000 bikes at 300 solar-powered sharing kiosks citywide yet this year, followed by another 1,000 bikes and 100 kiosks in 2013, the Grid Chicago blog reports.
Ald. James Cappleman (46th) said Friday that he is "delighted" by the plan, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. Ald. Marty Quinn (13th) offered a similar endorsement.
"My 10-year-old car needed $4,000 worth of repair, and I ditched it. I rely on a bike and Zipcar these days. So, I’m all for it," Cappleman said, the Sun-Times reports.
According to Managing Deputy Commissioner Scott Kubly, who is overseeing the bicycle sharing program and previously helped Chicago Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein to institute a similar program in D.C., the system is expected, by the end of 2013, to offer kiosks as far north as Devon and as far south as 63rd, extending west to California, Grid reports. Residents will also have a chance to provide feedback on where kiosks should be located in upcoming community meetings and via an online form.
Klein has been criticized over the bike sharing contract with Alta because he previously worked as a consultant for the Portland company, the Chicago Tribune reports. Kubly claims that Klein has "completely recused himself" from the contract negotiations.
Membership in the program will cost $75 annually or $7 per day for unlimited rides under 30 minutes. Rides lasting beyond 30 minutes will cost an extra $1.50 to $2 for each additional hour.
According to the Chicago Journal, the city is slated to foot the $1.5 million bill to jumpstart the program and federal funds will reportedly cover almost all of the overall cost beyond that. Kubly contends that the program will ultimately be a revenue generator for the city.
The program is also part of the city's effort to curb obesity rates, Medill reports.
"The idea behind this is to create an environment that allows people to be more active by making changes to our infrastructure and environmental changes, such as the bike share program," Efrat Stein, spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Public Health, told Medill.
The city's existing bike sharing program -- Chicago B-Cycle -- is limited to just more than a handful of kiosks located exclusively in the city's downtown area.
The full City Council is expected to consider the bike sharing program ordinance Wednesday.
WATCH a recent report on bike sharing on WTTW's "Chicago Tonight":