Charlotte launches first bike share program

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - City leaders and cycle enthusiasts lined up today to give a fleet of blue bikes their inaugural ride, as Center City Partners announced that Charlotte's first bike sharing program will wheel into town by the end of the month.

Soon, user-friendly stations will be all over uptown and the surrounding area, and you can return your bike to any of them.

Bob Burns is president of the company behind the design.  So far they've brought the bcycle system to 15 cities. "It's intended for short trips around town," he said. "Instead of getting in your car or getting in a cab you just come downstairs grab a bcycle, ride it across town, put it back in any station, and forget about it. We launched our first system in Denver, and it's really been spreading across the country in communities like Charlotte that are progressive and well organized."

Charlotte resident Patrick Paige can attest to that. "I was in Denver a couple of weeks ago and they have dozens and dozens of stations and it looked pretty cool. It looked well used," Paige said. "It seems a lot less stressful than driving around, just sitting in traffic."

And biking burns calories, which is why the bike's baskets are stamped with Carolina's HealthCare System seals. Blue Cross and Blue Shield has signed on as primary sponsor.

"That is the catalyst. Almost 30% of adults in North Carolina and over 18% of children are obese," says Charlene Foley, of Blue Cross Blue Shield. Foley says obesity costs the state $57 billion a year, but estimates show every dollar spent on biking plans can shave about $3 dollars from that cost. "It really is going to be a nice way to add another layer to Charlotte's transportation system," she says.

And that is perhaps the biggest plus for Center City Partners. "This is a big deal for Charlotte," said President Michael Smith.  "It does a lot with health and wellness, but it's also a transportation extender.  If you ride the bus or you ride the Blue Line right now, when you get to a station you have a walk zone that you'll consider. Well, if you make it a ride zone, all of the sudden it's a lot further."

"The more we can give people transportation options like bicycles the better off we're going to be in terms of our health, our mobility and in terms of the sustainability of the city and that's what this is all about," added Mayor Anthony Foxx.

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