New bikeshare in Ithaca, New York hops on community biking trend


New Ithaca Bikeshare bikes. Image: Casey Martin

By Mackenzie DeRaad

This is the first story in a 3-part Great Lakes Echo series on sustainable transport in the region

After the COVID-19 pandemic shut down Lime scooters and e-mobility in Ithaca, New York, residents were pushed towards less sustainable methods of transportation again.

Lucky for residents and visitors, though, the Center for Community Transportation launched a new bikeshare service in November, Ithaca Bikeshare.

Bikeshares are not a new concept — many states are funding and implementing them.

They operate like car rentals with docking stations throughout a designated area. Anyone can download an app, unlock an e-bike, ride it to their destination and “check it in” at the new location.

In Rochester, Michigan, for example, GEKOT has partnered with Razor USA to bring e-mobility to Oakland University’s campus with hopes of expansion into Detroit in the near future.

Madison, Wisconsin, revamped its BCycle fleet earlier this year, adding 75 new e-bikes and eight stations, in addition to its nine currently operating stations, according to a press release.

BCycle has other locations in Milwaukee; Battle Creek, Michigan; Jackson County, Michigan; Indianapolis and Cincinnati.

Chicago introduced the first U.S. bikeshare system — Divvy, which is part of Lyft — to incorporate on-street e-bike charging stations at the end of 2021, according to the city’s Transportation Department.

Bikeshares have been growing again post-pandemic, yet Lime decided not to return to Ithaca, prompting the Center for Community Transportation to develop Ithaca Bikeshare.

Traffic calming techniques. Image: COMMUNITY IMPACT

According to Lime, it made a company-wide decision not to return to areas that were not profitable.

Ithaca lacks bike-friendly infrastructure, like extensive and protected bike lanes, meaningful bike routes and traffic-calming devices (roundabouts, medians, speed bumps), but Bike Walk Tompkins worked with the city government to change that situation.

Hector Chang, the active transportation coordinator for Bike Walk Tompkins, said people will feel more comfortable using a bikeshare with implementation of the new infrastructure.

And to address complaints about bikes being left in the middle of the sidewalks or roads, Ithaca Bikeshare is offering a $1 credit for returning a bike to a selected “hub location” shown on the app.

Jeff Goodmark, the director of micromobility for the Center for Community Transportation, said that the new Ithaca Bikeshare e-bikes are better than what Lime offered previously.

He said he hopes that improvement can convince Ithaca College and Cornell University to adopt the program on campus.

“The success of the Ithaca Bikeshare is dependent on a few things,” he said, colleges being one of those things.

The demographic necessary for success is there though — college students who can’t afford a car or the high-price of university parking that goes along with owning one.

Maybe Ithaca Bikeshare will expand in the near future — the Center for Community Transportation is planning to increase its services in the spring of 2023.

Other bikeshares are launching soon too, like YoGo Bikeshare, which plans to launch in Youngstown, Ohio, in March 2023, according to a press release.

Listen to the sustainable transportation group podcast link below.

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