BATON ROUGE, LA — July 24, 2018 — Today, Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome announced that the City-Parish is seeking a firm to start a bikeshare program, which is expected to improve the quality of life and offer transportation alternatives in the parish.
In its request, the City-Parish expects the selected bikeshare equipment vendor to provide the technology and equipment for 80 stations and 800 bikes, assist with final station placement, and install the system. Service will begin as early as spring 2019.
Paris had bikeshare first, then it spread to other large cities around the world. More recently, companies operating bikeshare have expanded systems to mid-size cities, with Birmingham, Ala., and Chattanooga, Tenn., among the first in the Southeast. New Orleans just launched Blue Bikes in December 2017. To ride, people pay annual memberships or rent by the hour. They check out bikes at stations, ride them where they want, and dock them to hubs near their destinations. Kiosks at high-traffic stations and phone apps make bikeshare easy to use.
“Bikeshare will play a key role in my overall transportation vision for East Baton Rouge Parish,” said Mayor Broome. “This program will add a much-needed layer of mobility to our system, and will tie in seamlessly with my proposed MOVEBR plan.”
The City-Parish won an Environmental Protection Agency technical assistance grant to determine the feasibility of bikeshare in Baton Rouge. The grant dovetailed with a Baton Rouge Area Foundation project to improve mobility. The community foundation provided initial funding and staff support to develop a business and implementation plan for bikeshare, then recruited the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development, the City-Parish, and local stakeholders as collaborators.
Now, parish government is on a fast schedule to launch bikeshare. Under the Request for Proposals, firms must submit offers to operate by Aug. 21. A City-Parish selection committee will pick a finalist, with the Metro Council responsible for authorizing the final contract, likely in September. The winning firm is expected to start a bikeshare program within six months after a contract is signed.
In the first phase, 50 stations and 500 bikes — some of them electric-assisted — would be at LSU, Southern University and downtown, as guided by a Toole Design Group demand study. Toole is a nationally recognized planning, engineering and landscape architecture firm in bicycle and pedestrian transportation. The second phase — 30 more stations and 300 bikes — would be situated in Mid-City, North Baton Rouge and the Baton Rouge Health District, an area around Perkins Road, Essen Lane and Bluebonnet Boulevard where hospitals and clinics are clustered.
DOTD is providing $600,000 in funding that must be spent on alternative mobility projects. As a match, the City-Parish is providing up to $260,000, which is reserved for projects related to biking and similar projects. These funds will pay for bikeshare station equipment, site planning, and installing the system. Additionally, the selected vendor would be responsible for providing the bikes and identifying an operations strategy. Typically, bikeshare operations are supplemented by user fees and corporate sponsorships.
“As this area continues to grow and the modes of transportation evolve, alternative means of transportation will become even more important to help ease congestion and improve quality of life,” Sec. Shawn D. Wilson, Ph.D. said. “Projects such as the Government Street Road Diet will provide more opportunities for businesses, pedestrians and cyclists. DOTD is excited to support this bikeshare program as it will be beneficial as the city and state moves forward to improve biking opportunities.”
Wherever bikeshare has been implemented, biking has flourished. Seeing people ride the branded bikes encourages the development of more infrastructure, which expands bike riding and makes cycling much safer.
In planning for the launch, the project has already made a difference in East Baton Rouge Parish. The Foundation facilitated the EBR Bicycle and Pedestrian Plan, which is funded by DOTD and BREC. Due early next year, that plan’s recommendations will guide future infrastructure implementation, like bike lanes, sidewalks and trails.
Bikeshare is arriving at the right time, as the local cycling network is already expanding. BREC is adding trails in the Health District, and the state is adding bike lanes in its reworking of Government Street. But the biggest benefit to cycling could come from Mayor Broome’s proposed MOVEBR plan, which includes money to build complete streets and to retrofit a biking network.
“Bikeshare and bike lanes will give people another way to move around the parish,” said Mayor Broome. “More people riding bikes will help to mitigate traffic, particularly during big events, such as LSU and Southern football Saturdays.”
Baton Rouge Bikeshare started as a project of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation about three years ago. To explore bikeshare, the Foundation hired Toole, which verified that a program would be viable, and picked areas where demand would be greatest. To implement Toole’s blueprint, the Foundation hired Bantam Strategy Group, which has successfully helped communities implement bikeshare in Birmingham, Alabama, Reno-Sparks, Nevada, and many other communities. Bantam facilitated the project following Toole Design Group’s recommendations and will ultimately assist the transfer of the bikeshare system to the selected vendor upon launch.
Other project partners include BREC; the Downtown Development District; LSU and Southern University; Capital Region Planning Commission; East Baton Rouge Planning Commission; Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana; local bike advocacy organizations including Bike Baton Rouge and Front Yard Bikes; Capital Area Transit System; Baton Rouge Health District; Center for Planning Excellence; Federal Highway Administration; Sustainable Transportation Action Committee and the Complete Streets Committee.