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Bike rack:Fond du Lac mulls public bike share program

FOND DU LAC — The crowd stoops and kneels and squints, hovering over the handful of rental bicycles on display in Fond du Lac's Hamilton Park Monday.

There are smiles, too, as City of Fond du Lac officials here tell visitors that they are mulling a plan to bring a few rental bicycle racks to Fond du Lac, for public use on jaunts across the city.

bike racks

The program is known as a bike share, where users can unlock a bicycle from a rack for a fee. Explaining all this to the curious crowd are representatives from BCycle, a company that produces these rental rides, part of Waterloo-based Trek Bicycles.

It's too early to say for certain if or when the ride share program would come to Fond du Lac. City leaders though, are weighing the options of bringing a fleet of 40 or so bikes to key points across Fond du Lac. Lakeside Park, Downtown Fond du Lac and Marian University are all options.

Fond du Lac would be the first city outside Wisconsin's major metro areas to install such a bike network, if the plan is ultimately approved. Ride share programs are common in larger cities, where commuters and tourists zip across town on rental rides, said Will Rosenheimer, business development representative, with BCycle.

Still, Rosenheimer insists bike share programs have been welcomed and well-used in smaller communities, such as Battle Creek, Michigan, population 51,000, and Evans, Georgia, population 29,000.

To get the program off the ground, the city would likely need to partner with a Fond du Lac organization, that would pay for a rack of bikes, said Jordan Skiff, City of Fond du Lac director of public works. Each bike costs about $5,000, or about $200,000 for a fleet of 40.

That's probably too pricey for the city, Skiff said. But Fond du Lac could ask businesses or other organizations to chip in for the program. In return, those bikes would likely be branded with that group's logo.

"The best way to make this happen is through partnerships," Skiff said during a presentation to the City of Fond du Lac advisory park board Monday night.

The rental bicycles in the ride share program are locked to public bike racks typically spread throughout a city. A user rents a bicycle by swiping a credit card to pay for their trip, though users can also purchase membership plans for the program, swiping a student ID, say, to use a bike.

Fees for bike rides would work somewhat like a parking meter does. When users pay for a ride, that money goes to the City of Fond du Lac, though city officials have not yet determined how this will work, Skiff said. The city, also, could set fees for these rides at what it sees fit.