CANTON BikeSmart, Stark County’s free bike sharing program, has just entered its third year after two successful start-up seasons.
The program, a collaborative venture between the Stark County District Library, Stark Parks and Canton Parks and Recreation, launched in June of 2015, as the area’s first bike lending program featuring 36 bikes located at six different hubs around the county. The program had 5,719 rides with 1,253 active members through the first two seasons.
For now, the hubs are located at the Main Library in downtown Canton, Jackson Township Library, Sippo Exploration Gateway in Perry Township, Canton Garden Center, Schneider Park/Middle Branch Trail in Plain Township and the Edward "Peel" Coleman Southeast Community Center in Canton. Deputy Director of the Stark County District Library Jean McFarren said officials are hoping to add a few more locations this year.
"We are adding bikes to the North Branch Library on 25th Street in Canton and we are hoping to add bike hubs in Alliance and Massillon this year," McFarren said. "The goal is to make it a county-wide program by expanding into Alliance and Massillon. In addition to more hubs, we’re updating the locking system this year and getting new bikes in efforts to develop a robust network and offer bikes to everyone. The program ultimately improves transportation and recreation for the county."
The idea came from an idea by middle school students attending the Tom Todd Camp in Canton. The students looked at the assets and challenges around the county during camp and realized there was a need for access to bikes to ride the trails that Stark Parks offer.
The partners for the Stark County District Library’s program works with Zagster, which is a national bike share company that provides and maintains the bikes and the software used to check out the bikes.
Those who are at least 18 years old with a library card for the Stark County District Library or its branches can rent a bike for fre. Patrons have to provide a credit card, which will only be charged if the person doesn’t return the bike.
People who don’t want to sign up for or have a library card can use a credit card to pay a small fee to rent the bike. McFarren said out-of-town visitors to the area may prefer to pay the fee versus signing up for a library card.
"The library believes this was a program is a good fit for the area. If you can borrow a book, you can borrow a bike," McFarren said. "Its success is based on the number of riders over the past two pilot years. We had one rider who rode 129 miles over last season."
The BikeSmart program won the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association (OPRA) Award for Management Innovation in 2015 and the Ohio Library Council (OLC) Innovation Award in 2016.