C-U's first shareable bikes expected to hit streets at start of UI semester

C-U's first shareable bikes expected to hit streets at start of UI semester

URBANA — With agreements almost finalized, VeoRide is set to become the first dockless-bike-share service in Champaign-Urbana.

Lily Wilcock, active transportation coordinator at the University of Illinois, said the Indiana-based company gave her serial numbers for 500 bicycles — the biggest fleet size allowed. The goal, she said, is to roll them out around the start of the semester.

One other company, LimeBike, has expressed interest in coming to town. Ben LeRoy, an associate city planner in Champaign, said it submitted a certificate of insurance and showed interest in completing an application.

Dockless bike sharing became permitted after the UI and the cities of Champaign and Urbana solidified an intergovernmental agreement earlier this year.

Each bike is equipped with GPS, has a self-locking mechanism on the back wheel and can be accessed with a phone app.

Riders pay through the app — VeoRide charges 50 cents for 15 minutes — and are instructed on how to properly park bikes when finished. Both cities follow similar guidelines for appropriate parking.

In areas with large sidewalk spaces, such as downtown, bikes should be parked on the sidewalk if they're at least 4 feet away from blocking anything.

"So they'd be parked near the curb where existing bike racks are," said Urbana city planner Kevin Garcia. "Or if there are no racks, places where a rack would be."

In neighborhood environments, bikes should be parked in street spots where a car could park for free. LeRoy said that might look strange, but it was already allowed in Champaign's city code, before bike sharing was approved.

If a bike has been improperly parked, the company is responsible for retrieving it within certain time frames. For reporting an improperly parked bike, LeRoy said, both cities and the UI can be called, but it is faster to go straight to the company, whose contact information will be on the bike.

"The companies are required to be adequately staffed to deal with that," he said.

In addition, Garcia said private property owners are allowed to designate where they'd like bike-share bikes to go. He noted that some cities have difficulty with irresponsible bike-share users but said he has high hopes for C-U.

"I think we have a really good bike culture here," Garcia said. "There are respectful and friendly folks throughout town."

And if something goes wrong, LeRoy said the bike-share program regulations can be tweaked.

With the rollout will also come public education around proper procedure. Wilcock said she already does that work in regards to general biking among UI students, so bike sharing will be mixed in.

Garcia said he's working on a video about accessing and parking shared bikes. He aims to put it out in the next few weeks and promote it through the city's social-media platforms.