The art of bike sharing considered in Coeur d'Alene - Coeur d'Alene Press: Local News

The art of bike sharing considered in Coeur d'Alene

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Posted: Sunday, June 13, 2010 12:00 am

COEUR d’ALENE — It started as a way to explain art.

Those six bicycle racks along Fourth Street are just that, bicycle racks.

Not everybody seems to know it, though.

So how to you tell people that public art pieces such as the octopus, the fish, the salad forks and the giant chain are more than just art, they’re there to hold a bike?

By placing bikes there, of course.

And what if those bikes were left unlocked, and people could hop on and use them, so long as they left them at another bike rack when they were done?

It’s called bike sharing — other cities have perfected it — and it could come to Coeur d’Alene as another step to boost Lake City’s bike-friendly designation.

“The idea came up just to let people know they’re bike racks, not just art pieces,” said Monte McCully, city trails coordinator. “But then it kept going.”

With 60 miles of bicycle paths, lanes and trails crossing town, and another 70 miles planned to be added in the future, Coeur d’Alene’s next step could be a creative way to ensure those trails are used, even by people who don’t own bikes.

“It could work in Coeur d’Alene, especially in the summertime when there is a lot of foot traffic,” McCully said. “It’d be hard to do, but it would be nice. But then again that’s what we say about every project.”

The goal is to increase awareness on the benefits of cycling; health and economic reasons tops among that list. But another perk could be boosting Coeur d’Alene’s bronze designation as a bike-friendly city, said Doug Eastwood, parks director. Already the Lake City boasts a substantial bicycle culture, from BMX riders at Cherry Hill park, mountain bikers, commuters and Ironman athletes to vintage beach cruisers pedaling along the lake.

“I’d say it’s unique to Coeur d’Alene,” said Aaron Young, owner of Born Again Bicycles, the hobby-turned-business on Sherman Avenue that refurbishes old bicycles, on the variety of different bikes he restores for customers. “Coeur d’Alene is a good place to ride and I don’t know if I would see the different types of bikes” if the store was in another town.

But what about providing two-wheelers for the bicycle-less?

Some bigger cities have already done it, or are planning to, including Minneapolis, Denver, New York, Boston and Chicago, and a slew of European cities where the bicycle culture is more widespread.

Paris launched a program with more than 10,000 bikes and quickly doubled that. The same year, Barcelona launched with 200 bikes and by 2009 was up to 6,000 bicycles.

“I ride everywhere,” said Dan Johnson, who doesn’t own a car and had the mail he just picked up from the post office fastened to his bike fender on Friday. “And I can beat the bus a lot of the time.”

There are two different ways to bike share.

One way would be more expensive for the city and the rider, and that would be to install standardized bikes that can be locked in kiosks around town.

In Minneapolis, which was recently named the most bike-friendly city in the U.S. by Bicycling magazine, with 128 miles of bikeways, riders pay $5 for 24-hour access to the bikes; a yearly subscription is $60. Chips are placed in each bike, tracking their activity, and the renter would have to pay for lost, stolen or damaged bikes if something happens when he or she checks one out.

More expensive and state-of-the-art, but it guards against bike-sharing’s Achilles heel, theft and vandalism.

“The crime rate,” said Tiffany Hawthorn, a local walking along Sherman Avenue, about what would prevent such an idea from taking place here. “Our younger generation would take them home and part them out, I guarantee it.”

McCully said when members of the Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee began kicking around the idea of putting out bicycles on the bike racks, they knew that could be a problem. And if the idea were to fail because of those, it would be hard to build the momentum back up for bike sharing in the future.

One possible prevention would be awareness. The city could collect a heap of “serviceable” bicycles from police auctions, for example, and paint them all a uniform, distinguishable color such as pink so everyone knows when one is a public bike.

That could make resale of stolen bikes more difficult, but wouldn’t necessarily guard against vandalism.

The number of stolen bikes in Coeur d’Alene wasn’t immediately available, but Young said around 15 percent of his customers looking for a new bike are doing so because their old one was stolen. A few years ago, it was only a couple of customers per year, he said, and transaction Web sites could be a tool for people looking to sell the recognizable bike outside the area.

“There could be some problems,” he said of the sharing idea.

McCully agreed that a lot of wrinkles would have to be ironed out, should the Lake City implement its own plan, but it was an idea worth at least discussing down the line as the city continues to add and connect trails across town.

Both Minneapolis and Denver saw the possibilities when bike-sharing programs were used at the 2008 Republican and Democratic conventions they hosted, with 1,000 bikes at each location. In eight days that summer, the program logged 7,523 bike rides and 41,724 miles.

Meanwhile, Portland, Ore., is watching the Minnesota and Denver programs before deciding whether to launch its own.

“That’d be a good idea, I’d use it,” said Bryan Ervin, waiting at the bus stop on Fourth Street Friday next to the artistic bike racks that spurred the idea here.

Ervin was lamenting that the bus was running a little late, and was surprised when he learned that adjacent art pieces were designed to hold bikes, too.

“They ought to put a sign out or something so people know,” he said. “Or bicycles.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • Humanist posted at 11:42 am on Tue, Jun 15, 2010.

    Humanist Posts: 3208

    Quote Silas Lindt: "It's a crying shame that CDA is going for this metro modern art junk, and losing it's Americana feel. Get rid of this horrible so-called "art". It's offensive."

    Personally, I think the art adds to the "American" feel. America is now a melting pot of cultures and people and having some art that is considered a little more cutting edge is great IMHO. One man's junk is one man's treasure.........

    Offensive? Really? How? Because it doesn't appeal to your aesthetic tastes or is offensive in some other way?

  • Silas Lindt posted at 10:54 am on Tue, Jun 15, 2010.

    Silas Lindt Posts: 9

    It's a crying shame that CDA is going for this metro modern art junk, and losing it's Americana feel. Get rid of this horrible so-called "art". It's offensive.

  • RadRevD posted at 7:38 pm on Mon, Jun 14, 2010.

    RadRevD Posts: 3333

    this is nothing more than a ploy to redistribute the wealth locally, except this time the recipient is too stupid to steal a bike or is too affluent yet seeking nostalgia.

  • RadRevD posted at 6:53 am on Mon, Jun 14, 2010.

    RadRevD Posts: 3333

    Maybe bike sharing is at the heart of China's glowing economy. ChiComs own all the bikes, and the pillows heads are laid upon. Thanks to past presidents and executive orders, we are only a few steps separated from China. Provide the right crisis and all private property can be confiscated including that cache of food under your stairway.

    I occasionally see this idea in use with shopping carts full of groceries. Funny, but i have yet to see a cart being returned to the store.

    One downside to any bike sharing: Who maintains them???

  • thetruthinID posted at 1:09 am on Mon, Jun 14, 2010.

    thetruthinID Posts: 61

    "the younger generation would steal them and part them out" ??? Stereotype much?

  • Mary Souza posted at 9:32 pm on Sun, Jun 13, 2010.

    Mary Souza Posts: 813

    Local Res, i agree that this should be only a charitable endeavor. If it is successful, it will entice others to donate. Keep the taxpayers out of it, Humanist, just do the fund raising the old-fashioned way: Ask people to give from their own pocketbooks and keep the government's hands off!

  • local res posted at 8:13 pm on Sun, Jun 13, 2010.

    local res Posts: 1165

    Humanist, I am glad that you enjoy the idea of bike sharing. I also like that you are willing to use your own money for this endeavor. What I am not happy about, is if it works you want my money to continue your good deed. I also would like to see the state make a few changes in the existing laws regarding the use of bicycle on public roadways. First, they should be licensed like all other vehicles to pay their fair share of the maintenance of the road surfaces. Secondly, bicycle riders should be also required to purchase liability insurance. Last, all riders should be required to take a special course to receive an endorsement to operate a bicycle, just like a motorcycle rider.

  • Dan Gookin posted at 6:06 pm on Sun, Jun 13, 2010.

    Dan Gookin Posts: 753

    Sounds like a plan, Humanist!

  • Humanist posted at 12:37 pm on Sun, Jun 13, 2010.

    Humanist Posts: 3208

    Dan Gookin: I don't recall ever seeing a bike on one of the racks either. I agree that a sign on the racks would help with awareness. OR, one of the pink bike sharing bikes on the rack would be a better indicator. Regardless, they are nice pieces of art.

    I am recommending the program start with purely volunteer and charitable funding because I feel that a successful pilot project being done prior to eliciting public funding would be prudent. And, yes, I can scrape together a couple hundred dollars to contribute a bike or two to the program because I believe in putting my money and labor where my mouth is. And if a pilot is successful, I would happily pay additional property taxes to support the programs future. After-all, it would be a good investment in how I would like to see this community evolve.

  • Dan Gookin posted at 11:26 am on Sun, Jun 13, 2010.

    Dan Gookin Posts: 753

    Hey, Humanist: Show me a photograph of someone - anyone - actually using one of the "bike racks." That would be a start. I drive up 4th all the time, and I've never seen a bike affixed to any of the "art" festooning the street.

    As far as bike sharing goes, I suppose you have the money to donate for such a thing. I've reviewed the City's published financial records and they certainly don't have the funds. Perhaps that bucket-o-cash the LCDC will pony up the money. Or they'll snatch it from the property owners in yet another LID.

  • Humanist posted at 11:05 am on Sun, Jun 13, 2010.

    Humanist Posts: 3208

    Personally, my family and everyone I have ever talked to loves the bike racks on 4th. The artistic and functional nature of them reflects the progressive culture of the younger generations of this city. The 4th Street revitalization was a fantastic change to that part of CdA. If you want to complain about that area of town now, then stay away from it and spend your time in an area that is more aligned with your aesthetic tastes - maybe Government Way.

    Now, back to the topic at hand instead of stating ones subjective views of pieces of art: Bike sharing is a great idea, but will be difficult to execute successfully. The article does not discuss where the funding would come from and how ongoing maintenance would occur. Also, there are too many young punks around with no regard for anyone elses property and theft and vandalism will be a very real problem. The check-out kiosk idea is a good one, but would significantly increase the cost of the program.

    I would fully support a small pilot project with all funding derived from charitable contributions. Heck, I would happily purchase an old fixie cruiser, fix it up, paint it pink and contribute it to the program. If the pilot project is successful, then we could look at using public funding to continue the program.

  • straight up posted at 9:47 am on Sun, Jun 13, 2010.

    straight up Posts: 965

    “Don't tell me where your priorities are. Show me where you spend your money and I'll tell you what they are.”

    James W. Frick quotes

    nuff said.

  • Dan Gookin posted at 9:18 am on Sun, Jun 13, 2010.

    Dan Gookin Posts: 753

    I'm happy that during an economic crisis our City sees fit to blow $5,000 each on those utt-bugly "bike racks." Very happy. Shows that our elected officials really have a grip on spending when the people out here need jobs.

    Oh, and those rich, elitist out-of-town millionaires the Mayor wants to attract to CdA? The people who will "save" us? They think that the public art is utt-bugly, too.

  • TakeBackTheUSA posted at 3:38 am on Sun, Jun 13, 2010.

    TakeBackTheUSA Posts: 765

    These "bike racks" are THE most hideous "art" created by man (or woman). The only thing more idiotic than the "artist" who created them is the bonehead city employee who approved them. And "bike sharing?" Come on. Oh yeah, and a more moronic Press article has NEVER slipped by this rag's editors.

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