• Wed September 07 2005
  • Posted Sep 7, 2005
As gas prices rise, some say, the time is right for such a plan. By JASON CLAYWORTH REGISTER STAFF WRITER September 2, 2005 More recreational trails, higher gasoline costs and Iowans' expanding waistlines have fueled talk of a program to put more metro-area residents and visitors on bicycles. The ideas include bike rentals and a loan program that works much like a public library. One plan would use abandoned or stolen bikes collected by police, paint them a funky color and station them downtown for people to use at will. None of the plans has been put to elected officials, and no cost has been calculated. "We're staying open to new ideas and trends," said state Sen. Matt McCoy, a Des Moines Democrat and vice president of the Downtown Community Alliance. "With the skyrocketing gas prices that have no end in sight, I think this will become a bigger issue." Central Iowa has more than 300 miles of trails, many of which have been linked to the heart of Des Moines in the past three years. Thousands of people use the trails each week. Recreation advocates predict the popularity will jump and that the trails could become a national destination - if more people have easy or free access to bikes. "I think as we develop the trails, we'll begin to see many of these innovated things come about," said Amanda Carstens Steward of the Transportation Management Association, a nonprofit group that tries to reduce vehicle traffic. More than three dozen cities in the United States and more than 25 in other countries have developed programs that loan bikes for free or a small fee, according to the International Bicycle Fund, a nonprofit group in Seattle. Cities such as Arcata, Calif., require a deposit that is refunded when the bike is returned in good condition. Others, such as Copenhagen, Denmark, install computer chips that allow authorities to easily locate the bikes. The success of such programs depends heavily on volunteers and, frequently, the desire of elected officials, said David Mozer, director of the international bicycle group. Liability issues, vandalism and theft are just a few of the hurdles the programs face. "I certainly don't try to discourage people from getting involved in cycling, but I also try to be realistic," Mozer said. Des Moines City Councilman Chris Coleman said he wants to be "certain that the demand is there" before he will vote to spend taxpayer money on a bike program. "All it takes is one drunk to throw a bike off a bridge and all of the sudden our investment didn't last long," Coleman said. Des Moines will host next year's U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships. Parks director Don Tripp said he has talked with tournament officials about an idea to buy 30 or so bikes for participants to use while they are in the city. Park officials have not budgeted money for the program and would likely rely on donations if city leaders like the idea, he said. Local soccer committee chairman Kim Walker came up with the idea. "I think it's a perfect way to give people the maximum exposure of our city," Walker said.

  • Source:
  • Author:
  • Posted By: