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Old 05-22-13, 02:44 PM   #1
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How to start a Community Bike Programme?

A few weeks ago my bike got stolen. I got lucky and recovered it (subject of another thread), and dismissed it as a troublesome neighborhood kid.

I'd found it at a McDonalds, and a few guys in my neighborhood work at McDonalds, so my better half concluded someone was late for work and took it out of desperation.

I don't know if I buy that, but within the context of that specific discussion, I said that if he had only asked, I would have gladly let him borrow it. This is true. If he came back around and asked even now, I'd still let him.

So I decided I really need to invest in a "loaner bike" that can act as a loaner or a backup. I've been wanting to do that a while now, but I've been sidetracked. Now that summer's here, I'm working full time again (intern), and can invest in one or two. I was originally going to get a few Flying Pigeons because they're kind of symbolic, have a history that interests me (then again, everything does), and for 100USD I can get a bike with lights, basket, fenders bell and rack. Unfortunately the only company in the U.S. that sells them also lives on the west coast, so the 100USD assembled bike suddenly becomes 240USD with shipping - 10USD shy of the thing I ride now, which is leaps and bounds better.

That find, however, planted the seed of an idea that maybe I should set up a community bike programme. This is an idea that'll be a few years off - I'll need to stop being an intern so I can bring more serious cash investments in, first. However, it would not hurt to get some ideas and research early, would it?

The goal is simple: Have a place where community members can borrow a utility-class bike for a day and a safe place to return it to.

My concept: Build a bike-lock-up area, fill it with bikes and allow an opt-in to create a list of approved users. Bikes would be simple single speeds with basket and rear rack for maximum per unit utility and ease of upkeep - perhaps two or three trailers on the side. Ideally, individual units would not cost in excess of 200USD. Opt in requires proof of ID and address (i.e. you have to be a "community member" for however the "community" I find myself in two years from now is defined. You sign a contract and if you lose it you buy it.

Some questions:

1) What are the legal considerations involved in establishing a community bike programme? Contracts will be involved in an opt-in, so minors will have to have parental consent. What kind of work goes into these sorts of contracts? Do I have to declare myself as some kind of business? What about getting my stock insured?

2) What are some practical considerations? None of these guys are going to be TdF with the things, so inexpensive is better. Utility is key, as these can be to-work transport as well as shopping transport, so really elaborate and upper scale stuff would be wasted. Rack, basket, simple gearing. Single speed is probably best, because then there is no derailleur to up and explode on me.

3) Cost. If I feel motivated to do this, there are some money related issues. Firstly, if I have five bikes at around 200USD each, that's a 1000USD investment before I begin talking about how the secure area will work. Do these sorts of programmes work well with service charges? How does that impact legal issues? Would security deposits be a good idea as part of the opt-in? One consideration I have is that if there's a large up front or recurring cost, it'll not be useful because anyone who can pay real money probably is wise enough to get their own bike. Everyone else ... well, that might be a barrier for them using it at all, and they need it more. Consumables are also a question - tubes, brake pads, lube.

That's all I can think of - have at me!

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Old 05-22-13, 03:01 PM   #2
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Contact programs that are already in place? Tulsa has two that I know of:

-Rack-N-Roll run by Tulsa Transit (bus service, no light rail here).
-Tulsa Townies partnership between Tulsa Riverparks and a local hospital.

You could also check out citibike in NYC, but they have gotten a bunch of backlash by the locals on how they've gone about setting up their kiosks...
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