The City of St. Joseph Health Department is developing a bike share program that will allow users to pick up and drop off bikes at numerous “self-service” stations at no cost.
Nancy Taylor, a health educator with the health department said they’re planning to make the free, healthy transportation option available in early May.
Taylor has been researching bike share programs for a few years, but thought it was a “pie in the sky idea” for St. Joseph until she discovered Green Apple Bikes’ sharing program based in Manhattan, Kansas.
Green Apple has been distributing their bike share program manual to communities who want to build their own programs by following a similar format that makes the free riding service affordable for a city to operate and accessible for all users.
“We’re going to buy bikes that cost around $100, instead of $1,000, and if we have to replace them then we will,” she said. “We’re building that into our program. What (Manhattan, Kansas) found out is that at the end of the year, they were able to round up and collect 95 percent of the bikes that were in the bike share program. So the whole thought of ‘Oh. If you put these free bikes for people to use, they’re going to steal them,’ and that really didn’t happen.”
Taylor said the first phase of the bike sharing program will use funding from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Block grant that the health department received from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
It will pay for 40 single-speed Kent bicycles with baskets attached to the handlebars, and seven self-service bike racks that will be spread throughout the city.
“The end goal is to get more people on bikes,” Taylor said. “Green Apple recognized a need, and we’re going to implement this as well, if there is a person in the community that does need a bike on a regular basis, you know don’t take a bike share bike. Contact us and we’ll work with you to get a bike that you can call your own.”
St. Joseph recently applied for a Bicycle Friendly Community designation but only received an honorable mention.
Taylor believes that new projects like the bike share program will not only help the city earn a BFC designation award, but also expand tourism and make riding a bike an easier option.
“We recognize the transportation needs in our community,” she said. “If you can’t afford a car, you know, you should still be able to get around town, because in bigger cities having a car is not even a thought. People just use public transportation. How do we remove those barriers and allow people to access those services like the grocery store and getting to the places they need to go to without having to rely on a car?”
The Student Government Association at Missouri Western State University was initially looking to create their own bike sharing program, but after talking with Taylor, decided to collaborate with the health department’s plan and bring a bike sharing station that students can use on campus.
Taylor said that sustaining and expanding the program will be done by having businesses and organizations pay a fee to sponsor a bike rack.
“The bike rack will then be located at their place,” she said. “They would also have advertising, maybe on the basket of the bike. Those fees would be responsible for doing any maintenance, upkeep or replacements of the bikes.”
Anyone interested in becoming a sponsor or a volunteer for the bike share program should contact Taylor at 816-236-1491 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org