A Small Town Trying to Solve Big Traffic Problems with a Local Bike Share Program

bikes in a rowCollingswood, New Jersey is one and a half miles by one and a half miles of small town that is doing what it can to be sustainable. It has a thriving farmer’s market. The local government encourages residents to recycle and compost, even offering inexpensive composters to residents. Several of the town’s many restaurants support local farms by using what they produce.

And now, Collingswood is starting what may be the country’s first small town bike share program. Town commissioner, Joan Leonard, is behind the efforts to make available bicycles to loan to residents who wish to bike around the town instead of jumping in their car to go short distances.

Joan did her research by reading about past programs in larger cities and found out what worked and what didn’t work. Frequently programs failed because of lack of money. So she found a way to take a way a lot of the financial burden of a program like this by acquiring bicycles from the local police storage. Any unclaimed bicycle that had been in storage for more than a year was donated to the program. She also got donations from residents who had bicycles sitting in their garages or basements that weren’t being used.

Volunteers are helping to fix the bicycles and paint them a neon green so that the bicycles will be recognizable as bike share bicycles. Volunteers will also be available at to help residents learn to fix their bikes to encourage more biking in town.

Those wishing to obtain a long term loan of a bicycle will only have to pay a small fee (perhaps $20 or $25) that is still being determined. People who are not regularly using their loaned bicycle are asked to return it to the program, and if the bike is still in good condition they will receive a $10 refund.

The goals of the Collingswood Bike Share program are to:

  • Get bikes in the hands of people
  • Help residents learn to fix their own bikes
  • Help police with a registration program to identify bicycles
  • Help the environment by getting residents to turn their cars on less

Collingswood is a pedestrian community. Everything is within walking distance and now with this program everything is within pedaling distance, too. There’s a high speedline that runs through the center of town and shuttles commuters throughout South Jersey and over the bridge into Philadelphia. Don’t be surprised if the bike racks at the speedline are filled with neon green bicycles in the near future and the parking lot is little less full of cars.

image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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  1. Gustavion

    Great idea. I live in Austin, TX and we have a similar program, but with hybrid cars. It’s a really neat innovative idea. I think it is important for us, as consumers, to support these ideas. I came across a website http://www.simplestop.net that stops your postal junk mail and benefits the environment.

  2. Carrie (the one with the brompton)

    this is wonderful! i saw folks fixing bikes at the farmers market which caused me to search and find this article.

    i do have one problem. there aren’t nearly enough bike racks at the train station (nor throughout town.) it’s not bad in winter, but come spring we’re forced to lock up to parking meters (and the cops tell us not to). there’s plenty of space for at least 5 more bike racks on the west side of the station. if the town is serious about increasing biking, they need to provide secure places to park.

  3. robin

    Carrie – It may be a good idea to contact Joan Leonard who runs the bike program because she is also a commissioner in town. She may know who to get in touch with to see if more bike racks can be added.

  4. Joan Leonard

    Thank you for getting the word out about our new bike share program. Our volunteer bike mechanics at the Collingswood Farmers Market have already restored 20 discarded bikes, and we hope by the end of the summer our first fleet of neon green bikes will be riding through town. We will continue at the Market every Saturday and hope to raise awareness that riding a bike is a healthy, simple, and responsible life choice; bike riding is possible for folks of any age –you can help the earth and work your muscles too! By the way, we have placed about 5 new bike racks already in the downtown, the park, library, pool and other areas are being addressed too. The speedline? I will take a look and see if we need more there!
    Thank you so much for the article and comments.
    Joan Leonard; Commissioner of Collingswood, NJ

  5. Ed Rivkin

    Great idea. I was at the Farmers Market this weekend and had a nice chat with the folks there.

    Another thought for Carrie regarding the Speedline bike rack issue. Why not ride into Philadelphia?

    From Collingswood it’s a pretty easy ride.
    Take Park Blvd. along the river to 130.
    Cross over and head North through the parking lots and the pub parking lot and then the pedestrian walkway paralleling Adm. Wilson Blvd. past the Hess station.
    Make the next left. Follow the road as it bears right to Federal and make a left.
    Make a right onto 6th Street and left onto Penn (First street after Cooper) and first right onto 5th Street.
    Take whichever walkway over the Ben Franklin Bridge is open and you’re in the big city.

    As you may surmise, I’ve done this a few times…including today.

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