For the last nine months Ashland has been enjoying a spiffy bike rental program for our community that has been sponsored through a partnership with the Rogue Valley Council of Governments (RVCOG) as the primary driver, along with the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) and the Rogue Valley Transportation District (RVTD).
Rogue Bike Share is here thanks to this public funding, grants, the city of Ashland and Southern Oregon University. Ideally, says Andreas Napoli, RVCOG’s transportation planner. Rogue Bike Share hopes to eventually sustain itself on more private dollars. An earlier bike program started by the United Way helped pave the path for RVCOG which has (literally) taken the initial offer further down the road. Rogue Bike Share currently has six locations in Ashland and one in Medford.
Rogue Bike Share resembles bike programs found in a growing number of larger cities. These conveniently placed bank of bikes entice people to get out of their cars and pedal instead for transportation, sight seeing, exercise and, as a bonus, air pollution reduction from the combustion engines dominating our roadways. If you have yet to notice them, look for a rack of white rental bikes with matching metal baskets. Andreas explained that placing Rogue Bike Share bikes on the Route 10 bus allows riders to exit the bus and have easy access to the bikes.
Since the program is nearing its first birthday the data being collected has not had a chance to go through the four seasons of usership. The primary renters thus far have been 18-30 year olds, but this could change once the most current data from tourism and local ridership is tabulated. It will be interesting as time goes by to get a more accurate picture of the demographics of participants in this already popular program.
Driving less and pedaling more not only supports a healthier community (better air quality and exercise) but also provides a critical transportation link for people who lack access to a personal vehicle. For members of our community who cannot afford a car or choose not to have a car, this program, when coupled with bus service, makes “public transportation” more practical. The bus cannot go to every part of town, so the bikes help fill in that gap.
A credit or debit card is required to participate in the Rogue Bike Share program. There is an annual membership fee. The cost to the general population is $25 (SOU and RCC students pay $15). These members receive two hours per day to ride for free. Additional hours cost the user $1.50 for each additional 30 minutes. Recipients of SNAP, Medicade, TAFN and those enrolled in the JOBS program may also apply. The annual fee is waived and offers the participant a bike for up to 10 hours per day (no charge). A debit or credit card is still required because participants are given a special code to access these rental bikes. (For more information, in Ashland call 541-482-2041 and in Medford call 541-776-6172.)
One thing that could make Rogue Bike Program easier for some in our community is if the bike came with someone else to do the pedaling. I hope technology doesn’t create self-driving bicycles. Cars are worrisome enough with (and without) drivers! And besides, we can benefit from a little exercise. An option available in some other communities is an electric assist bicycle. In hilly places (like parts of Ashland), the electric push up a slope can make all the difference. As Rogue Bike Share grows, maybe this feature on some bikes could included.
Rogue Bike Share offers tourists and locals equal opportunity to leave cars curbside and hop on one of these bicycles with lock and basket included. (Helmets are not.)
Please consider trying out these bikes one time soon for running errands or getting to an off-site meeting during your work or school day, vacation or errand day.
Rogue Bike Share is a great example of how convenience doesn’t always have a downside. It is heartening to hear that leaving our cars behind is not just a groovy idea, but we can become members of Rogue Bike Share. This offers a gift with personal as well as community benefits for healthier air and bodies.
Thank you RVCOG! So, get out there and pedal!
The contact person for the Rogue Bikeshare is Andrea Napoli (email firstname.lastname@example.org). For a map and more information on the Bike Share Program, go to rvcog.org/what-we-do/rogue-bike-share/.
Risa Buck has served on the Ashland Conservation Commission and in waste prevention education for more than a dozen years. You may reach her through email@example.com. Find past WasteNot columns online at bit.ly/rbwastenot2.