Oil City Council members gave their blessing to a plan to bring a bike share program to Venango County at the panel’s meeting Thursday.
Kristin Hauser, the assistant executive director of the Crawford Area Transportation Authority (CATA) and the Northwest PA Mobility Alliance, outlined for council the proposal that would include three locations in Oil City.
The bike share is managed through an app that people can download on their phones, she said.
She explained that a geofenced area, which uses satellite technology, is like an invisible fence people get for their dogs “except that it doesn’t shock you.”
Once someone unlocks a bike with their phone, they will be charged $2.50 an hour until they take it back to a geofenced area and return it, she said. The only way to unlock a bike is to purchase a ride, she added.
The program has operated very successfully in Meadville for the past two years, Hauser said.
The program started in Meadville with 20 bikes and was later increased to 30, Hauser said. Over the past two years, many people have rented the bikes to ride on the bike trail or to get from one side of town to the other, she added.
None of the bikes in Meadville have ended up in French Creek, and there was only one incident in which a bike was lost for about a day and found in an alley, Hauser said.
Hauser said the Northwest PA Mobility Alliance will be responsible for fundraising to purchase the bikes as well as all the maintenance and insurance costs associated with them. There is no cost to the city, she added.
In the second phase, Hauser said they are planning to set up geofence locations at Drake Well and Oil Creek parks and three locations in Franklin, including the Justus Trail Saltbox house.
The goal is to have bikes available at all the trailheads in Venango County, she added.
Helmets aren’t provided or required to use the bikes, which are three speed bikes that automatically switch gears, Hauser said.
The program operates seasonally and the bikes are locked down every night, she said. There is also an emergency/help button if people need assistance when they are on a ride, she added.
“There really is no downside to this,” Oil City councilman Nick Moran said.
In another matter discussed at Thursday’s meeting, city manager Mark Schroyer said the city’s employee health insurance plan is projected to go up 8% next year.
Schroyer noted the city’s cost would likely go up 8%, and he added that employees will see an increase in health insurance premiums next year but “that doesn’t mean it will be an 8% increase.”
“I’ve already been told that going into 2024 will be especially bad. I don’t know how they can project that a year out,” Shroyer said of expected insurance cost increases.
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