Partners with RTA for potential program
Remember Gunnison Free Ride from the early years of the new millennium, or the Crested Butte Cow Bikes of the later 1990s? Both were large fleets of townie bicycles provided to the general public for free, as an encouraging form of alternative transportation.
This summer, a similar “bicycle library” service just might be available in Crested Butte South, thanks to the efforts of the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation Authority (RTA) and Crested Butte South Property Owners Association manager Chris Behan.
The idea was discussed during a regular RTA meeting on Friday, May 9. The RTA is currently in the process of designing a pair of pull-outs for the free RTA Bus along Highway 135 at the intersection with Cement Creek Road. Behan said people who use the bus or hitchhike still have a hard time getting out to the intersection of Highway 135 and Cement Creek Road.
Behan’s pitch to the RTA was, “Let’s buy some community bikes.”
RTA director Scott Truex said the bikes would service a limited area between a series of bike racks just off the intersection at the highway, and racks at the Fire Station in Crested Butte South.
RTA board member Skip Berkshire said, “There’s a real specific need there—the way (the road is) configured it’s awkward for folks to get out to the (intersection).”
During the April meeting of the RTA, the board discussed purchasing some new bike racks to complement the bus route. Initially they considered adding racks at the free RTA bus stops in Gunnison, as the city has been dealing with numerous bikes leaning against buildings and street posts. The board then discussed adding racks near the Four-way Stop in Crested Butte as well.
During an operational report later in the meeting, Truex said 11 bike racks were on order at a total cost of $3,875. He said the racks should be finished by Memorial Day.
Behan said Crested Butte South currently has several extra bike racks that could be used for the community bike program.
Behan said the community bikes would be provided on an honor system basis, leaving it up to those who need the bicycles to care for and return the bikes when finished riding. Behan suggested looking into offering the cheapest model of “townie” style bicycles available, and in the least desirable color possible, so losses wouldn’t be as problematic. “In that case if they walk off, they walk off,” he said. Behan said he believed the bikes could be obtained for $100 to $150.
Truex said the more common problem associated with this type of program was keeping the bikes safe and maintained. “It’s not if they walk off. It’s when nobody treats them well and somebody has to repair them,” he said.
RTA member Stu Ferguson said constant repairs were what hampered the old Free Ride program in the city of Gunnison. Ferguson also suggested attaching some form of identification to the bikes so people would know the bikes were provided by the RTA and Crested Butte South. “Get somebody who’s talented to weld a sticker or plate to the middle of the frame,” Ferguson said.
RTA board member Jim Starr said the identification was a good idea and could help deter people from stealing the bikes. “And it gets the (public relations) out,” Starr said.
RTA airline consultant Kent Myers suggested the RTA and Crested Butte South try to contact a major bike manufacturer for a trade deal. “Here you’ve got this ‘green’ motion—I think you guys can make a big statement. I think you can go to Schwinn or some big bike company to sponsor it. Maybe you can get them at half price from the manufacturer,” Myers said.
RTA board member Hap Channell said he had been reading more and more about “bike libraries,” subsidized or community-sponsored free bike programs similar to what the RTA and Crested Butte South are considering. “I think it’s a good idea to follow through. We do need to go in with our eyes wide open,” Channell said.
Berkshire asked if the bike program could be a liability for the RTA due to injuries or mishaps.
Truex said the RTA would not be liable if Crested Butte South buys the bikes. He said the RTA would only be a financial contributor.
Starr said, “It would help to have a real brief business plan or agreement with Crested Butte South and the RTA.”
Behan said a business plan was something that could be arranged.
Truex and Behan agreed to look for a manufacturer or local bike store that could provide 10 to 12 bikes for the program, and to discuss the matter further during the next meeting of the RTA in June.