City Council on Wednesday passed legislation to help fund a bike share program in Cincinnati, but not before arguments over the bike paths prioritized in Mayor John Cranley’s budget.
The bike share program, run by a non-profit company called Cincy Bike Share, would allow residents and visitors to purchase a year-long membershipor a daily pass to gain access to 300 bikes from 35 stations in the central business district, Over-the-Rhine and uptown. Over the last few years, successful bike shares have started in a number of large cities, including Chicago and Washington, D.C.
The motion passed by council gives the startup $1.1 million from the city’s capital improvements fund to help get its operation off the ground. The group estimates it will need at least another $1 million in investment to ramp up, but Cincy Bike Share Executive Director Jason Barron has expressed confidence it can attract that money.
But there was some controversy. Though all members of council supported the money to Cincy Bike Share, the motion originally came bundled with funding for a number of off-road bike trails the mayor prioritized in his budget.
Those trails have been controversial, as they represent a shift in course from the last council’s plans for on-street bike lanes.
Some council members said they didn’t know enough about the bike paths included in the motion to vote yes or no.
“The problem is, someone has paired these two issues together,” said council member Chris Seelbach. “And the bike paths may be perfectly legitimate, but the public deserves a presentation on what these paths are, why they deserve $200,000 set aside for them and what they will be used for.”
Seelbach pointed out that some of the paths need millions in funds to be completed and asked what a little money from the city would do to help their progress.
But Cranley said money for the Bike Share program is already overdue and needed to be approved immediately if that project is to go forward. A motion to consider both measures together failed a council vote.
“I’m just trying to get the Bike Share passed,” Cranley said. “I believe the Bike Share plan is going to be dead if we don’t get it through today.”
Cranley said the bike path spending will not happen in the near future and ordinances could be passed to revise that spending later.
Eventually, the measures were split after some argument between the mayor and council members Seelbach, Yvette Simpson and Wendell Young, all of whom wanted Cincy Bike Share and bike path funding considered separately.
Council will vote on the bike path funding issue later, after presentations from the groups building the trails in question.
Young called splitting the two issues to find out more about the paths “time well spent.”
Simpson told CityBeat she and other council members are pleased that Cincy Bike Share will be funded and that they’ll get a chance to learn more about proposed bike paths.
“I support biking and bike trails in general, it’s just one of those weird nuance things where if we’re going to defund one thing and start funding something else, you want to know what it is,” Simpson said.
She added that she was hopeful the city can find ways to fund both bike paths and urban lanes.
Update: an earlier version of this story stated that Cincy Bike Share is a for-profit company. The organization is a non-profit. The error has been corrected.