Mar 222012
 
Authors: Jason Pohl

For nearly four years, anyone looking for a temporary ride around the city could simply check out a free bicycle from the Fort Collins Bike Library nestled in the heart of Old Town.

During that time, more than 9,300 riders went through the simple check-out process similar to that of a library book and rode off with rented bikes more than 11,000 times, be it for an afternoon of recreation or a full week of adventure.

And while the program is in place to make renting a bicycle easy, big changes may not be far off.

At the end of 2012, the grant that largely pays for the Fort Collins Bike Library will expire, prompting funding uncertainty and a need for community input on the future of the program, especially with the renting kiosk slated to open for summer on April 7.

“We are looking at a variety of alternatives,” said Amy Lewin, transportation planner for the city of Fort Collins. She added these alternatives may include expansion or even an automated system, and resident feedback will be instrumental in the decision.

A survey is available online through March 31 to gather feedback from the community on what direction the program should take. These results and the ultimate decision will be considered by community leaders for the 2013-2014 city budgeting process.

The survey is available at www.fcgov.com.

As of Tuesday, there were 697 responses since it was made available Feb. 15.

“Riding a bike is a great option for students, faculty, staff, residents and visitors alike,” she said. “A bicycle sharing program like the bike library makes bikes easily accessible.”

Bike Fort Collins has been a key group in getting –– and keeping –– safe biking accessible in the city. The group was instrumental in the development of the bike library and provides forums to the city throughout the year about cycling within the city.

“In a nutshell, having a bike library is important to get people out of their cars and put more people on the streets,” said Jeff Morrell, president of Bike Fort Collins. He explained that the health benefits and safety components are huge reasons why this sort of program needs to be continued.

Morrell added that the draw to having a volunteer-driven system includes face-time with the customers that an automated system couldn’t give. Whether it’s directions or maintenance, having that interaction, Morrell said, is key to the success of the Fort Collins Bike Library.

“I’m not saying an automated system is wrong,” he said. “I’m just saying there are certain things that the automated system can’t and just never will be able to provide.”

Though CSU students may not use the program as much as visitors or other community members, many still recognize the importance of accessible biking in the city.

“It’s easier to bike around town, especially when the weather is nice, than to try to find parking,” said Amanda Beatty a junior history major.

Beatty has used the program several times and said it is one of the defining characteristics of what makes the city so great.

“I think we have a really strong bike culture, especially in Fort Collins,” she said, adding that not everyone can afford a bike and having an option even when your bike is broken is key for the city.

“You can bike almost every day of the year, and it’s easier than renting a car,” she added. “I think we forget how unique we are.”

Senior Reporter Jason Pohl can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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