SULPHUR — The City Council on Monday unanimously authorized Mayor Mike Danahay to enter into a joint services agreement with other parish entities to fund a feasibility study on bicycle-sharing programs.
Also involved in the study are the city of Lake Charles, Calcasieu Parish Police Jury, Southwest Louisiana Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Community Foundation of Southwest Louisiana.
Danahay said the city’s share of the study — $5,000 — would come from the city’s tourism fund. Lake Charles, the parish and the visitor’s bureau would provide $10,000 each, and a private donor would chip in $5,000 via the Community Foundation.
Sara McLeod Judson, foundation president and CEO, offered details on the study and prospective bike-sharing program to the council. She was asked about costs.
“OK, who is going to own this? Is a company going to own this, or is the city going to own this?” council member Mike Koonce said. “Shouldn’t they (private company) do the feasibility study? What will the city gain out of this money-wise?”
The study, Judson said, would look at which of the many bike-sharing business models would be the best fit for Sulphur and Lake Charles.
“Optimistically speaking, what we would gain is changing the culture — healthier living and utilizing bicycles to exercise and create a type of lifestyle I know I need. That would be more of a gain or profit versus revenue,” said council member Melinda Hardy.
“We’re being asked to be on the cutting edge of research to collect data. Before any decision or expenditures are made the stake-holders — voices from our community — need to be a part of that.”
Judson said a person would rent a bicycle for a short period of time — for example, 30 minutes or an hour — via a smartphone app, paying per rental or monthly subscription. The bicycles or the docking stations would include computer systems, she said.
Renters would return the bicycle to a docking station and after logging it back in, Judson said, the bike would be available for another rental.
New Orleans has begun using a bike-sharing program — with about 400 bicycles in circulation — and St. Tammany Parish and Baton Rouge are researching its feasibility.
The local study would reveal the number of bicycles needed for Sulphur, Judson said. Police departments would play a key role in the study, especially dealing with safety, she said.
Other questions centered on the need for bicycle lanes or paths, and whether the city would pay for their construction. Judson said that as demand for the bicycles increases, there will be a need for paths or lanes.
“Lake Charles has added bike lanes and they didn’t have to widen roads,” Danahay said. “If we choose to do so down the line, we could apply for a federal grant or other funding.”
The City Council will hold a special meeting at 5 p.m. Thursday, July 12. The next regular meeting will be at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 13.