Joco Opinion

No movement on program to rent bikes in Olathe

The city’s Park and Recreation Department determined that there would be a demand for the service but ultimately recommended against signing an agreement with BikeWalkKC to operate a bike share program at three locations in the city.
The city’s Park and Recreation Department determined that there would be a demand for the service but ultimately recommended against signing an agreement with BikeWalkKC to operate a bike share program at three locations in the city. Photo provided

A program that would have provided rentable bicycles in Olathe is apparently dead after organizers said they couldn’t find corporate sponsors to help offset the cost.

In a report submitted Tuesday to the Olathe City Council, the city’s Park and Recreation Department determined that there would be a demand for the service but ultimately recommended against signing an agreement with BikeWalkKC to operate a bike share program at three locations in the city.

“Is the city of Olathe interested in bike share? Yes, I think so,” said Michael Meadors, the city’s parks and recreation director. “Is this the right program at this time? Perhaps not.”

BikeWalkKC, through its Kansas City BCycle subsidiary, currently operates bike share programs in parts of Kansas City, North Kansas City and at Longview Lake and is developing a system of bike share kiosks at several Johnson County parks.

The program allows users to grab a bike from a hub, electronically rent it for a few hours or a day and then return it to the same location or another hub within the bike share network. The Olathe report also recommended the use of “smart bikes,” which contain global-positioning systems to avoid the need for expensive kiosks and hubs.

The City Council has been considering bike sharing since last December, when it accepted a grant through the county Parks & Recreation District that would have helped pay for the initial order of 30 bikes.

Park officials invited the public to suggest bike rental locations and possible bike routes through town. Based on that feedback, the report estimated around 3,400 people a day would rent bike rides in Olathe.

However, it also determined operational and maintenance costs for the program would total around $36,000 a year. Efforts by BikeWalkKC and the county park district were unable to find companies or other entities willing to help cover that cost, which is not in the city budget, Meadors said. He added that the bicycle grant expires at the end of the year, meaning the city was running out of time to make a decision.

“It’s not necessarily in the best interest to rush in because of a deadline on a grant,” Meadors said.

He said it is possible that the city could reapply for the grant or a similar one next year if it finds the right sponsors. But officials said there’s also concern that interest in bike share programs is declining in favor of programs offering other rentable vehicles, like electric scooters or skateboards.

“As you’re learning from KCMO, they’re not so much going into bike share anymore,” said Brad Clay, deputy parks director. “Now, what do they want to do? They want to do the scooters because it’s low maintenance.”

In other business, the council on Tuesday scheduled a public hearing on Dec. 18 to consider approving a STAR bond project plan for the proposed $271 million redevelopment of the former Great Mall of the Great Plains location at Interstate 35 and 151st Street.

Developers are seeking more than $69 million in public incentives for the Mentum project, a mix of apartments, retail space and offices based around a 4,000-seat arena that would provide space for ice hockey, concerts and other events.

STAR bonds allow developers to keep future sales tax revenue generated on a site to help pay for certain construction costs.

David Twiddy: dtwiddy913@gmail.com

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