Visitors to four Johnson County park facilities may soon be able to rent bicycles to explore nearby trails and surrounding neighborhoods.
The Johnson County Park & Recreation board approved buying equipment Wednesday to set up a bike-share program. Kiosks and special bike racks, where visitors could pick up or drop off bicycles and pay rental fees, would initially be placed at the Arts and Heritage Center on Metcalf Avenue, Shawnee Mission Park, Heritage Park and Meadowbrook Park, which is scheduled to open this summer.
District officials said those locations were selected because they are already popular or, in the case of Meadowbrook, surrounded by a large population of potential users. Several of them also would give riders easy access to the Gary L. Haller and Coffee Creek trails.
The program would be operated by Kansas City B-Cycle, a bike-share program currently offering bike-share services on the Missouri side of the state line in Kansas City. That program offers bikes at 41 stations across the city and generated more than 16,000 bike-share trips in 2016, the last year for which numbers are available.
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While the park district has yet to determine its prices, the Kansas City program’s rates start at $3 per half-hour of bike use, payable either with a credit or debit card or through a mobile phone application. There also are options for a $35 24-hour pass and a $65 annual pass, which gives the user a free one-hour bike ride each day.
Cliff Middleton, the district’s planning and development manager, said the service likely will be up and running in the parks early next year.
The project’s initial cost for the district is estimated at $308,264, which would include buying and installing the kiosks and bike racks as well as buying the initial order of 70 bicycles. The district is applying for a $187,264 grant from the Kansas Department of Transportation to help offset part of the equipment cost, with the district paying about $121,000.
Maintenance and other operations costs in the first year are estimated to be about $1,000 per bike.
Jeff Stewart, the district’s deputy director, said the district also is looking to generate money by selling commercial sponsorships that could be tied to the entire bike system or feature advertising on the kiosks, bike racks, the bicycles themselves, or the mobile phone app used to reserve and pay for rides.
“We feel very confident that we can secure some sponsorship dollars to offset most if not all of the cost,” Stewart said.
Commissioner Steve Baru said he was “really excited” about starting the bike-share program.
“This is something else that connects us to the whole Kansas City community where we’ve got bikes in other places,” Baru said. “If we can be the spark in Johnson County for other communities, that would be great.”
Commissioner Paul Snider asked if the district would provide riders bicycle helmets. Stewart said he would look into it, but he said it would be difficult logistically to house the helmets at the bike locations and there would be concerns about hygiene.
However, he said the bike-rental locations definitely would include sufficient warnings about the dangers of not wearing a helmet while riding.
The city of Olathe is considering joining the project, adding another 30 bikes and affiliated equipment, Stewart said. City officials said they are still conducting a feasibility study and have not yet disclosed where they would place the bike-rental locations.
Middleton said the city’s cost would be around $60,000, which would include $48,000 in state grants.
Other Johnson County cities looking to join the bike system include Overland Park, Merriam and Lenexa, Stewart said.
In other business, the board accepted a proposed master plan for rehabilitating the northern lakeshore at Heritage Park. The $6.2 million plan would reshape part of the lakeshore using material removed from the lake during an upcoming dredging project.
It would also add a new boardwalk and relocate parking to avoid disrupting walking/jogging trails as well as build new pavilions, exercise stations, restrooms, trailheads and a playground.
Only a portion of the project’s expected cost is included in the district’s five-year plan of capital projects, meaning the board will have to find the dollars in future budgets.
The board also voted to move forward with a plan to build a $1.2 million plaza at the front entrance of Shawnee Mission Park in honor of John Barkley, a World War I veteran who helped establish the park system and served as its first parks superintendent.
The new gateway, expected to begin construction next year, will include a memorial plaza, lawn steps, a covered shelter and relocated parking that will lead visitors to better views of the park.
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