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Planners considering public bike-share program for Birmingham

The Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham is examining the feasibility of creating a public bike-share program for downtown Birmingham.

Maryland-based Toole Design Group has been awarded a contract to conduct the feasibility study. The company is completing similar studies in Cleveland and Philadelphia.

Harlow_1369927899_nicerideThe study will examine possible funding options for a community bike-share program in Birmingham, as well as potential sites for bike-share stations. The study, which will include opportunities for the public to submit comments, will also take a hard look at any challenges to successfully operating a bike-share program in the city.

“This is the first step in determining whether a bike-share program will work in the Birmingham area,” said Lindsey G. West of the Regional Planning Commission. West said the study is expected to be completed before the end of the year. An implementation plan should be completed within the first quarter of 2014.

Bike-share programs, in which people can access or rent a bicycle and then return it to one of multiple locations around a community, have taken off across the globe. Washington, D.C.New York  and Chattanooga, Tenn.,  are among the U.S. cities that have recently launched bike-share operations.

Bike-share programs can serve varying purposes. They can provide an alternative method of transportation to help remove cars from overcrowded roads, or they can be an attraction for tourists or other visitors.

In Birmingham, several downtown sites could be potential locations for bike-share stations. They include city center hotels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Railroad Park, Five Points South, Linn Park, the Lakeview and Uptown entertainment areas, and the Birmingham Civil Rights District.

The feasibility study will also examine how a public bike-share program could tie in to other private bike-share initiatives that are underway or being developed in Birmingham. Alabama Power, for example, has a bike-share program for its employees at its downtown headquarters.

The study will also consider possible infrastructure improvements – such as creating more bicycle lanes on city streets – that would enhance a public bike-share program.

To learn more about the Regional Planning Commission’s community bike-share initiative, contact Lindsey G. West.

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