All summer long, we listened to politicians debating the economic-development merits of a new soccer stadium for downtown Orlando. When the Orange County Commission voted in favor of supporting the project with tax money collected as part of our tourist tax dollars, everyone (save for a handful of detractors) celebrated it as a huge win for the city, despite concerns that stadiums are a questionable investment – they’re fun and exciting, certainly, but they often cost cities as much money as they bring in.
But there’s another program being considered for Orlando, receiving comparatively little fanfare, that won’t cost the city much but could be a big win for downtown: bike sharing. Studies show that the simple program, which allows users to rent bikes from street-side racks for short-term use, could improve real-estate values, boost retail revenues and improve biking safety.
According to the Economist, studies show that in cities where bike-sharing programs exist, rents tend to be higher closer to bike-sharing stations and bike paths. People shop more at retail outlets located near bike-sharing stations, and they tend to stay longer. Bike-sharing also opens up areas of a city that aren’t otherwise served by public transportation, opening the door to more development and activity. The New York Times reported in June that bike-sharing programs often lead to safer bicycling conditions in cities that have them because city officials have even more reason to consider ordinances that tend to cyclists’ needs.
According to Orlando City public information officer Cassandra Lafser, on Oct. 21 the City Council approved the rankings of the companies that bid on the contract to provide bike-sharing in Orlando. She says that Cyclehop LLC was the “number one” rated company, and the council must next negotiate a contract with Cyclehop, which will then go before the council again for final approval. She says that is likely to happen “by January, if not sooner.” The first phase of the bike-sharing program will include 20 bike-sharing stations and a total of 200 bikes that have baskets, lights and safety bells. The goal is to have the program up and running by next summer.