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Wyomissing explores bike-share network with Reading, West Reading

Wyomissing plans to begin accepting bids to install three bike share stations in the borough, with designs on building a larger network that would potentially extend into Reading.

The borough is already collaborating with neighboring West Reading on the bike share program, and exploratory conversations have been held with several public and private entities in downtown Reading as well, said Michele Bare, acting borough manager and economic development coordinator for Wyomissing.

“Our intent is to work with the city of Reading and other private partners,” Bare said. “It’s not just a Wyomissing-to-West Reading destination. We’re starting to create a network.”

Bike share is a system of self-service bicycles that riders can rent for a fee by using an app on their cellphone that’s linked to a credit or debit card.

The service is intended to offer an alternative means of transportation to vehicles in efforts to reduce traffic and pollution, as well as aid residents who can’t drive or don’t own a car.

However, bike share can also be used for leisure by people seeking to visit businesses or parks.

“I‘m an avid cyclist and have been to other communities where bike share is,” Bare said. “It’s not just to ease congestion.

“When you’re riding a bike, it forces you to slow down and look around. You might stop and say, ‘I never realized this business was there,’ or, ‘Look at this cute row of homes I never knew existed.’ ”

Wyomissing is expected to open bids for the project at its borough council meeting Wednesday, with the intention of awarding the project on Feb. 8.

Little cost to taxpayers

Bare was quick to point out the cost of the road upgrades that made bike share possible were paid for with grants and private partnerships, while the bike share stations themselves will generate their own revenue.

“We needed to make improvements for pedestrians and bicycles, and putting in a bike route, it just made sense,” she said.

Last year, the borough received a $2 million multimodal transportation grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to connect North Fourth Street to Innovation Way, where Drexel University College of Medicine and Teleflex are located.

A $187,425 grant from PennDOT was also provided to fully cover the cost of the bike share stations for two years, as well as for three bike repair stations, all the signage and the painting of “sharrows,” or shared-lane markings, in the streets.

And an additional $48,600 was raised from local businesses and nonprofits for long-term maintenance of the signs and sharrows.

The improvements to the so-called WYOways trail for bicycles and pedestrians were highlighted by the borough in October. Theoretically, the revamped trail and bike share help connect the medical school to nearby Tower Health facilities, as well as Wyomissing with West Reading.

A group ride that started and ended at the Knitting Mills in Wyomissing was organized in October to raise awareness of the WYOways bike and pedestrian trail. The borough is looking to start a bike-sharing network that could connect with other municipalities. (JEFF DOELP — SPECIAL TO THE READING EAGLE

One of the benefits of the technology associated with the bike share stations, however, is the borough will be able to track how and how much the bicycles are being used — and, by extension, whether the program warrants continued support.

“You can pull all kinds of data and reports,” Bare said. “What bike share stations are being used? Where are riders dropping off and picking up? Are they going from Point A to Point B in a circular route?

“The idea is, at the very least, outside of the two-year period, we’re recouping our costs. But, also, the potential argument going forward is that it’s justified, people are actually using them.”

Ride from Wyomissing to Reading?

So far, the bike share stations are planned for the parking lot behind Wawa at 2005 Museum Road near Shillington; on the south side of Reading Avenue in West Reading; and the multimodal lot at North Wyomissing Boulevard and North Fourth Street.

Bare indicated the proposed station at Wyomissing and Fourth could be changed to a more viable location such as near the traffic circle at Fourth and Innovation.

Costs of renting a bike have not yet been determined, but riders could be charged by the hour, or hourly on top of a daily fee.

West Reading Borough Manager Dean Murray said the borough is excited to collaborate with Wyomissing on bike share, but that plans within its borders have not been finalized.

Several prominent destinations in Reading — a short ride across the Penn Street Bridge from West Reading — have also expressed an interest in participating in the bike share network, Bare said.

Alvernia University’s Reading CollegeTowne and Reading Area Community College are two more education hubs downtown that make logical possibilities for stations.

With conversations ongoing surrounding the restoration of passenger rail service with at least one stop in that area, a bike share program from Wyomissing to Reading could be even more useful years down the road.

According to an informational sheet provided by Bare, studies show more people riding bikes in urban areas can have a positive economic impact.

Of course, having access to bicycles may just be a nice thing to have, too.

“It could be great for employees on a lunch break,” Bare said. “It’s a beautiful day, you don’t want to walk — maybe hop on a bike for 45 minutes.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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