There is a growing consumer demand for bicycle rental on the Charleston peninsula. The Gotcha Bike system won a city contract to lease up to 200 bicycles at 15 downtown locations at hourly rates. Affordabike, B’s Bikes, and The Bicycle Shoppe also do downtown rentals. Affordabike is also offering hourly rates for hotel guests in their network.
Gotcha manufactures bicycles at a Huger Street warehouse with a belt-drive system (no chain), a GPS locator, puncture-resistant tires and a rustproof frame. The company started its rental program at Auburn University and has already added several other colleges and downtown Charleston high-tech hub Half Mile North to its subscriber list. The City of Charleston will be its first municipal contract.
Charleston began initiated a bicycle sharing program in 1996-7 downtown with the infamous “yellow bikes.” People were able to use the bicycles at no cost and leave them for another rider to pick up. All of the bicycles were stolen in a short time.
GPS tracking and the use of a smart phone app or keypad to pay a rental fee to use the bicycles has created a safeguard for a rental system and make the program economically viable.
The College of Charleston launched free bicycle sharing plan in 2013 operated by the Office of Sustainability (yes, the College has an Office of Sustainability). Students may check out a bicycle at the Stern Student Center by presenting their student ID and signing a register. A recent trip to campus showed that all 16 bicycles were checked out.
While consumer demand for bicycle rentals is clearly strong in downtown Charleston, it remains to be seen if hundreds of people riding bicycles on city streets and sidewalks will become a safety hazard for drivers and pedestrians.