Bike-sharing could come to Ridgefield, but is there a market?

Photo of Peter Yankowski

Ridgefield could be adding bike-sharing to its list of transportation services but it’s unclear whether a demand exists for rental programs that give riders a temporary bicycle.

Bike-sharing services got some support during a meeting of the Economic and Community Development Commission (ECDC) on Monday, Aug. 5.

ECDC member Cameron Carcelen said she reached out to two companies that provide rentable bikes to cities about the possibility of bringing the two-wheeled rides to Ridgefield.

One of those companies, Citi Bike, operates the blue bikes in New York City, and would require infrastructure —docking stations — to be built for the bikes, she told the commission.

The other company, Social Bicycles, has affiliates in smaller cities around the country, Carcelen said.

“Their thing is that they can do it with less infrastructure, so it takes up less space,” she explained.

According to Social Bicycles website, the bikes have a steel lock that travels with the bike, and the electronics that charge users for their ride is integrated with the bike, rather than at a docking kiosk — meaning the bikes can be stored and locked at a standard bike rack.

“They seem to have made it work in a number of smaller cities, including in Eugene, Oregon, where I used to live,” said Carcelen.

She said neither company had called her back.

“I suspect if I hear back it might be to say that Ridgfield doesn’t quite have the characteristics that would sustain their business for a bike-sharing program, though we could be optimistic,” she said.

She suggested that the idea would likely go hand-in-hand with the town’s plan to revitalize the area around the Branchville train station. But even before that, the ECDC could continue to promote cycling as a means of transportation.

ECDC member Geoff Morris suggested the town could experiment with a bike-share program during one of its festivals, where large groups congregate downtown. “We need a proof of concept,” he said

Vice Chairman John Devine lightheartedly suggested the town could turn to rickshaws for public transit.

“You could go Branchville to Ridgefield — there’s good hills … bridge the two shopping districts,” he said, to chuckles from the commissioners.

“The Ridgefield Rickshaw,” Morris quipped.