Newport Aggressively Prepares for Red Bike Stations
No Northern Kentucky city is moving as swiftly to land Red Bike stations than Newport.
At Monday night's city commission caucus meeting, the Cincinnati-based non-profit bike sharing program was discussed at length and Newport appears to be poised to welcome three stations right away with plans for a fourth not far behind.
City Manager Tom Fromme presented the agreement that the City of Cincinnati entered into with Red Bike. There are currently 29 stations in Cincinnati and more than 18,000 rides have been taken since September and 610 people have signed up for membership. "That's quite impressive considering January and February were wash-outs," Fromme said.
The program has been eyeing an expansion into Northern Kentucky, particularly in Newport, Bellevue, and Covington. At its most recent city council meeting, Bellevue took steps to prepare for Red Bike stations prior to the arrival of Major League Baseball's All-Star Game in Cincinnati in July. Newport hopes for a similar timeframe. Each stations costs between $45,000 and $50,000 and right now Newport has more than $125,000 thanks to funds offered up by Capital Investment Group, Southbank Partners (which has allocated $20,000 each for the efforts in all three NKY River Cities), $5,000 from the East Row neighborhood, and at Monday's meeting, Peter Newberry of Newberry Brothers offered up another $1,000 towards the effort.
Probably locations for Red Bike stations in Newport are around the Purple People Bridge, the Taylor-Southgate Bridge, and then possibly in a central location on Monmouth Street and near Watertower Square. Newport on the Levee is a top choice for Red Bike users, according to the organization's statistics as reported at Monday's meeting.
The proximity to downtown Cincinnati is also ideal for Newport riders. "People can park in Newport and Red Bike to Reds games," Fromme said. "Newport is a very walkable, bikable city, especially downtown. Covington to Bellevue is a really nice ride. I've always remarked that Newport is a walkable, green community long before it was popular."
City Commissioner John Hayden said that he was pleased that the city could move forward on the Red Bike effort "without a sizeable burden on the taxpayers". The city may find itself, willingly, on the hook for some of the remaining costs to be raised. Four four stations to be installed, Fromme estimated the cost at roughly $180,000, which means Newport is more than $50,000 short. "If we have three stations, we're there. If we want four, we still have some fundraising to do," Fromme said. The city would need to throw in about $28,000 to install the first three, he said.
"This puts us on the cutting edge," Commissioner Beth Fennell said. "There are more Newport residents riding bikes than ever before. I think it could bring more people to Monmouth Street, too."
Commissioner Thomas Guidugli agreed. "These bikes, being able to ride them and park them in another area, having these nodes will be a great opportunity for out-of-town visitors," he said.
Commissioner Frank Peluso urged the city to be sure that all of the language related to Red Bike has been read carefully so that Newport does not run into unexpected costs or issues. Mayor Jerry Peluso suggested that as Newport matures as a bike-friendly destination, it may be worth pursuing the installation of more bike racks throughout the city, so that traditional bike riders also have more options while visiting the city.
As for moving forward with Red Bike, Guidugli suggested that the city approach the issue with a hybrid approach of city dollars and private money. "I think if we don't start we'll have larger challenges," he said. The benefits include the fact that, "this is a brand. It's in all the major cities."
Written by Michael Monks, editor & publisher of The River City News
Image via Red Bike Facebook page