Bike-sharing rolls to a good start in Columbus | Dispatch

Mike Whaling has never considered himself much of a bicyclist. But each morning, he leaves his car parked at his German Village home and walks the three blocks to a CoGo Bike Share station on S. 3rd Street.
He swipes his membership key, hops on a bicycle and glides north on 4th Street with commuter traffic. Within minutes, he parks in the heart of Downtown and walks the rest of the way to his office on Lynn Street.
“My whole commute is like 15 minutes door-to-door, and it’s just been ideal for me,” said Whaling, 35. “A majority of my meetings are right around Downtown, so I’ll even take (a bicycle) to jump over to the other side of Downtown.”
Whaling is among the 422 people who have purchased $75 annual subscriptions to the service. Since its July 30 launch, 4,333 daily passes have been sold, and 19,264 trips have been made on CoGo bikes.
Last week, Alta Bicycle Share of Portland, Ore., provided the city with the first detailed look at the data behind CoGo’s first few months in Columbus. The company’s contract requires quarterly reports.
CoGo’s numbers lag bike-share programs in some of the country’s largest cities, but local officials say they compare well when the numbers are adjusted for the number of bicycles in its fleet.
“We’re pleased with the number of riders, the number of uses,” said Alan McKnight, executive director of Columbus Recreation and Parks. “It’s meeting our expectations at this point.”
Subscription and use fees have racked up $90,624 that can be used to make system improvements. For the first year, the city is paying operating expenses. Any future profit on the system will be split between Alta and the city, which plans to reinvest its share in the service.
Subscription sales and daily use are expected to dip through the winter months, said Heather Bowden, CoGo general manager.
In late July and August, 321 annual memberships were sold compared with 111 in September. Casual users who buy $6 daily passes have accounted for much of the system’s early ridership, she said. “A lot of people are testing out the system to see how it works in their daily lives.”
The data show CoGo mostly is used on weekends and that Bicentennial Park, where 1,646 rides have originated, is the most popular of the 30 docking stations.
“That says to us people are mostly using this for recreation,” said CoGo spokeswoman Frankie Cropper.
Stations in the Arena District have been used the least so far, according to the data, but Bowden said those were installed only three weeks ago.
Both CoGo and city officials said there isn’t enough data to draw conclusions about the system. McKnight said the city wants to see a full year of data before it considers moving docks or making other changes.
The 1.6 times that Columbus’ 229 bikes are used each day compares favorably to systems in Chicago and Chattanooga, Tenn., said Brad Westall, city greenways planner.
Other bike-share systems in larger cities generally have outperformed CoGo. For example, New York’s CitiBike launched in May, and the service has signed up more than 80,000 annual members. Capital Bikeshare in Washington, which has been operating since 2010, has nearly 35,000 annual members.
Since June, Chicago’s Divvy bike share added about 10,400 annual members.
All of those systems have more stations and bicycles than Columbus, and they serve more-populous areas.
“It’s really hard to come up with an apples-to-apples comparison,” Bowden said.