Free bike plan may get long-term legs in Cities

  • Updated: May 9, 2008 - 10:57 PM

A plan to make bikes available for free during the Republican National Convention could lead to Minneapolis and St. Paul teaming to offer a permanent bike-sharing program beginning next year, officials said Friday.

Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak said discussions were underway that he hoped could get the program running in Minneapolis next spring.

Anne Hunt, environmental policy director for St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, said that St. Paul, too, would expect to be part of any permanent bike-sharing initiative.

Rybak and Coleman spoke at a news conference Friday during which Humana, a Fortune 500 health insurer, announced it was providing 1,000 bicycles to the cities for community use during the Sept. 1-4 convention, and then leaving 70 "legacy" bikes behind for what it hopes will become a permanent program.

For the four-day initiative, dubbed Freewheelin, 10 solar-powered kiosks will be installed across the Twin Cities. Bikes could be picked up at a kiosk and then returned to the same one or to another after being used.

Use of a bike is free, but people must register with a credit card online to guard against thefts.

After the convention, Humana plans to donate the kiosks, too.

Washington is on track to be the first city in the United States to take such an initiative citywide. Rybak said that he was inspired to do the same after people shared with him news about a bike-sharing program in Europe, where the high-tech two-wheel initiatives are more common.

ANTHONY LONETREE

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