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Bikeshare Hawaii Pedaling Toward Reality
Plans to launch a bike sharing system in urban Honolulu took another step forward last week when both the city and state each committed $1 million in seed funding to Bikeshare Hawaii.
Bikeshare Hawaii is a local 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to making bikesharing a reality, led by friend and brilliant designer Ben Trevino and runner and experienced executive Lori McCarney. I love that they're focused on the pedal-powered side of shared transportation at the same time other friends are working on setting up a car sharing company.
The $2 million in funding provides a solid foundation for Bikeshare Hawaii, which also received $100,000 in Capital Improvement Grant-in-Aid funds from the state legislature earlier this year. But the group is hoping to raise $8 to $10 million to launch the first phase of its bikesharing system with 200 bicycles.
Honolulu is a great city for bikes, or at least it should be. The main urban corridor is relatively level and densely clustered, and our weather is almost always great. But as a former street and mountain biker myself, the city has long prioritized the mighty automobile.
Fortunately, civic planners and policymakers have smartly shifted more attention and money to alternative modes of transportation. And you don't have to look far to find signs of bike-friendly thinking. The number of designated bike routes has grown quite a bit since my two-wheeling days, the most prominent expansion being the new King Street Cycle Track. Even in Mililani, in the middle of the island where I live, bike lanes and shared-lane markings (a.k.a. "sharrows") are everywhere.
Bikesharing is the next evolutionary step, and public bike systems can already be found in hundreds of cities around the world. They offer a convenient, affordable, and healthy way to get from Point A to Point B (and sometimes back) within the urban core. Designed to complement existing public transportation methods, bikesharing and carsharing could fill in a critical gap for people who commute into town, clinging to their personal cars just in case they need to run an errand in the middle of the day.
Add in near ubiquitous smartphones, cashless payment systems, and smart fleet tracking and planning technology, and bikesharing is an accessible, efficient, and obvious way to improve island life.
Honolulu's still unfolding path to bikesharing goes way back. While the state Department of Transportation has had a bike plan since 1977, the city took its first solid steps in 1994, when it called for a bikeway system master plan. The Honolulu Bicycle Master Plan was adopted in 1999, and voters approved a City Charter amendment in 2006 that demanded that Honolulu be more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.
The city bike plan was updated in 2012, and specifically encouraged the establishment of bike sharing programs (citing a pilot program in Kailua conducted by the state Department of Health). That same year, a working group was formed to reduce VMT, or Vehicle Miles Traveled, and bikesharing was again identified as a key strategy. That led to the creation of a Bikeshare Working Group, which included a wide range of public and private stakeholders ranging from city, state, and federal government, the University of Hawaii, Hawaii Pacific University, non-profits and private foundations.
The Bikesharing Working Group, in turn, launched a city-funded Bikeshare Organizational Study in 2013. The Bikeshare Organizational Study Final Report was released last summer, and laid down the roadmap that the city, state, and Bikeshare Hawaii are now following.
While bikesharing is a cool idea, what would such a system really do for Honolulu?
The study projected that bikesharing could reduce total VMT by 4.3 million miles each year, saving $2.5 million and 4.3 million pounds of carbon annually. In addition, users of a local bikeshare system could collectively burn up to 173 million calories a year (about 692,000 hamburgers), and spend an additional $255,000 at businesses near bikeshare stations each year. Not to mention the creation of more than 30 jobs to support the system.
“This expansion of Honolulu's bicycling infrastructure will be a game-changer in giving residents and visitors options to avoid traffic, help the environment, and have fun,” Mayor Kirk Caldwell said last week.
What's next? Bikeshare Hawaii says it is finalizing the station docking map, will release it for public review and comment by early summer. For more information, visit BikeshareHawaii.org, or connect with them on Facebook, or on Twitter at @BikeshareHI.
Capital Bikeshare photo taken while visiting Washington, D.C. Other photos courtesy Bikeshare Hawaii.