Kane County is looking at starting a bike-share program
An effort to establish a countywide bike-share system is getting the thumbs-up from municipalities including South Elgin and Batavia, colleges and other entities across Kane County, officials said.
The bike-share program would be "a great amenity" and "a tool for economic development," because it attracts people particularly to downtown areas, said Ryan Peterson, transportation planner for the Kane Kendall Council of Mayors.
People who use ride-share spend more at bars, restaurants and grocery stores, take up less space to park, cause less wear-and-tear to roads and are better for the environment, Peterson said.
McHenry County launched a bike ride-share program last month and there is one in Kankakee County. Aurora has a Zagster bike-share program with three locations downtown.
Peterson said Kane County entities are being asked sign a memorandum of understanding by Aug. 23 to seek requests for proposals in October.
South Elgin trustees told Peterson at the committee of the whole Monday they endorse the proposal and plan to sign the memo. "I would like to see one (bike station) by Randall Road and one by downtown," Trustee Scott Richmond said.
The Batavia City Council voted "yes" on Monday to signing the memo. "Financially, it is somewhat of a no-brainer here. We should have the ridership," Mayor Jeff Schielke said. The Batavia Bicycle Commission enthusiastically supports the idea and would love to have as many as five stations in Batavia, commissioner Joann Spitz said.
The goal is to establish at least 10 bike stations, ideally 12, by August 2020 mostly along the Fox River Trail, which would be "the epicenter for development of this system," Peterson said.
The cost is estimated at $10,000 per year per station, including liability insurance. Kane County would kick in about $30,000, or $2,500 per station, to start in the first year, said Peterson, who also works for the county's transportation department.
The program would be similar to Chicago's Divvy ride-share program, consisting of bike stations with unmanned docks where people can use credit cards or smartphone apps to unlock bikes and pay based on usage or membership, Peterson said.
Municipalities, libraries and other participants in the Kane County program would select the locations for the bike stations and would get all proceeds from rentals and sponsorships, which typically yield back 80 cents on the dollar, compared to 40 to 70 cents for trains and buses, Peterson said.
Private health care organizations also have shown interest in hosting stations or becoming sponsors, he said.
The first to jump on board was the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, Peterson said. There is interest from Elgin, Geneva, Aurora, Waubonsee Community College, Judson University, Gail Borden Public Library and Elgin Community College, Peterson said.
Signing the memorandum doesn't equate to making a commitment, which would happen only when a ride-share provider is selected, he said. The selection process will include participation from local entities, he said.
McHenry County has six or seven Zagster bike stations including in Crystal Lake, Woodstock and McHenry, said Cheryl Chuwku, the county's human resources director. The bike-share program that launched in June was spearheaded by the McHenry County Convention and Visitors Bureau, she said.
The county paid $7,000 for a rack of five bikes outside the county government center using reward money from employee participation in wellness programs, she said. The program includes $3,000 in free rides, which the county is making available to employees, she said.
"I go for a half-hour bike ride before work in the morning. We want employees to walk and get exercise during the day ... and it all kind of feeds itself," Chuwku said. "It's a really nice program."
• Staff writer Susan Sarkauskas contributed to this report