Hilo bike-share program gets rolling

  • STEPHANIE SALMONS/Tribune-Herald A bike sharing station near the Mooheau Bandstand is one of four new stations recently established in Hilo.
  • STEPHANIE SALMONS/Tribune-Herald A bike sharing station on Banyan Drive, across from Liliuokalani Gardens, is one of four new stations recently established in Hilo.

Rows of bright blue bicycles, at four locations around Hilo, stand ready to be used.

Three years after Peoples Advocacy for Trails Hawaii, or PATH, launched a bike-share program in Kona, the program expanded to Hilo earlier this month.

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Tina Clothier, executive director of PATH, a West Hawaii-based bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group, said the bike-share program started on the Big Island in August 2016 with three stations in Kona.

Clothier said then-director of the county Department of Research and Development Kawehi Inaba had approached PATH about developing a bike-share pilot program after seeing similar endeavors on the mainland.

“We said yes, because it fits with PATH’s mission to safely connect people and places on Hawaii Island, and we believed it would help to create a more of a bike culture around the island and also create more demand for bicycle infrastructure,” she said.

Bike-sharing can be used for short trips around town. Bicycles can be rented for 30- or 60-minute increments and returned to another docking station.

A single 30-minute rental is $3.50, or a cyclist can purchase 300 minutes to use whenever they’d like for $20.

Monthly subscription plans also are available.

Unlimited 30-minute rentals are $15 per month and unlimited 60-minute rentals are $25 per month.

The initial stations in Kona were funded by the county, said Clothier. But part of the agreement with the county was to do a feasibility study about expanding the program to Hilo, she explained.

Clothier said last year, PATH began writing grants to expand the program.

The organization received one that allowed for three more stations in Kona, but a $280,000 Grant in Aid from the state Legislature, secured with help of state Rep. Nicole Lowen and other Big Island legislators, allowed for the installation of four stations in Hilo and another in Kona, she said.

In Hilo, stations can be found near the bandstand at Mooheau County Park, on Banyan Drive across from Lili‘uokalani Park and Gardens, at the Grand Naniloa Resort and at the County Building.

It is “basically a Hilo pilot program to see what the response is, what the usership is, what it could potentially be, and do some more fact-finding (about) where else people would like to see these bike-share stations,” Clothier said.

There are 36 bicycles in Hilo and 54 currently — soon to be 63 — in Kona.

“The coolest thing, as far as I’m concerned, … (is that) we were not on the ground and had not activated the station more than two hours prior before the first person used them in Hilo,” Clothier said.

Grand Naniloa General Manager Ed Gunderson said Clothier approached the resort about participating in the program.

From a sustainability and “somewhat green perspective,” the bike-share program fits in with the resort’s long-term goals to offset its carbon footprint.

Having people both on foot and the availability of bicycles for people to get around Banyan Drive and downtown Hilo, is convenient for those who don’t have vehicles or who choose not to rent a car, Gunderson said.

“We are certainly happy to be a partner with the bike-share program with PATH Hawaii,” he said. “The ability to go from our resort to downtown Hilo either on foot or the bike-share program is an outstanding way for people to see the city.”

Clothier said bicycles are an affordable way to get around more quickly than driving in a car, she said.

“Even with the rain, we have beautiful weather year-round,” she said. “Biking makes sense, whether it for recreation or going to or from work. … It’s a way to be outside in our beautiful environment, getting exercise and improving our health and reducing our costs, and it’s a better use of time than driving around, trying to find parking spaces, which we know are somewhat limited … .”

Clothier said response in Hilo has, so far, been great.

Since the program’s launch in Hilo on Aug. 9, Clothier said that counting people who have rode both in and out at each location, the Naniloa station has served 114 people, 110 people have used the Banyan Drive station, 86 have used the station at Mooheau County Park, and 26 have used the County Building station.

While it’s too soon to determine if the program will further expand in Hilo, Clothier said PATH is pleased with the response so far, “and that really gives us hope that the Hilo community will embrace bike-share and will be interested in adding more stations.”

There are no current plans to expand beyond Hilo and Kona, but Clothier said the county’s mass transit plan calls for expansion to Waimea. However, the Waimea community would “very much like to see much better bicycle infrastructure before it happens there.”

There also has been an inquiry from another community about the possibility of expanding the bike-share program there, but Clothier did not identify which community.

Clothier said PATH also is working with closely with the county departments of Public Works and Planning, and the state Department of Transportation to create bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.

“As the number of cyclists grow, we are working to make sure that infrastructure is there for their use.”

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More information about the program and bike subscription plans can be found online at hawaiiislandbikeshare.org.

Email Stephanie Salmons at ssalmons@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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