City plan peddles scooter, bike use

Annapolis proposes incentives to increase alternative modes of travel

August 01, 2007|By Nia-Malika Henderson | Nia-Malika Henderson,sun reporter

Aiming to get people into alternative modes of transportation, the city of Annapolis will launch an incentive program this fall to boost the use of electric scooters and bikes.

As part of the Annapolis Pass program, a partnership with Annapolis Scooters and Capital Bicycles, people who buy scooters and bikes will get discounts at local businesses.

The city is recruiting shops and by the end of the month will have a number of restaurants and stores on board, city officials said.

Participants also will get half off on bus rides.

"It's a broad effort. We want people to consider other ways to get around Annapolis," said Paula Chase Hyman, marketing specialist for the Annapolis Department of Transportation. "It's a way of adding something to sweeten the deal to get people to do what we've been asking them to do for the last couple of years."

Already, the city offers a free fare zone for bus riders between Compromise Street and West Gate Circle, a program launched last year.

Each year about 1.2 million customers use the city bus system, and the city expects increased demand with development projects like Park Place.

This summer, the city launched a bike loaner program at City Dock and roughly 45 people -- mostly visitors and boaters -- have borrowed the free bikes.

The bike program ends Aug. 18 and it could run next year as well with city officials looking to run it through the annual boat show.

Mayor Ellen O. Moyer sees the new incentive program as a way to reduce pollution and congestion.

She recently blogged about the variety of transportation modes available in Paris, including bikes, boat buses, and motorcycles. In a telephone call from Ireland, where she is on vacation, she said what she's seen in Europe caused her to broaden her ideas about transportation in the city.

Annapolis has to do more to provide signage and allotments for parking bikes and scooters, she said.

"I think we have a ways to go yet in the city and the country to encourage a variety of modes of transportation because we haven't thought through the linkages. We have to make it clear and simple," she said. "We are a small town and there are short distances. Walking would be great, but bikes and scooters really do make sense."

Annapolis Scooters, on Russell Street, sells electric bicycles for about $1,200 and will have electric scooters available later this year.

Gasoline powered scooters, which sell for about $1,700, will not be excluded from the program, city officials said.

"Annapolis is a perfect town for riding a scooter," Tom Karppi, the store's general manager, said. "People generally ride them for fun, but they are fuel-efficient and you can park them anywhere."

Karppi said about five scooters take up the space of a car so scooting around means a lot less congestion and parking problems.

Yet Paul Foer, the city's former transportation marketing specialist and a transportation writer, said scooters parked on sidewalks will endanger bikers and walkers.

He said the idea is "not bad, it's just not that good."

"To the extent that this encourages bicycling, and use of our bus system, it's a positive step, but does it help the many walkers, regular bus customers or bicyclists?" he wrote in an e-mail. "We do not need coffee discounts -- we need lanes and safe roads on which to ride. We need leadership that says we belong here."

The city expects to launch the program in mid-September.nia.henderson@baltsun.com

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