In an effort to improve the health and fitness of residents in St. Clair County, the Gateway Region YMCA is partnering with local agencies to build a bike-rental station at the East Belleville YMCA.
“We decided that it would be another great opportunity to add value to the community in providing another fitness option,” said YMCA Executive Director William Welsh.
He hopes the bike-rental station is up and running by this summer. However, more donations are needed to make it happen.
So far, half of the $20,000 needed to build the shelter has been raised, Welsh said. The YMCA is looking for donations to cover the other $10,000. “The sponsorship can be over four years so that makes it a little bit easier — $2,500 a year,” Welsh said.
The YMCA also is raising money to purchase four youth bikes, four adult women bikes and four adult men bikes as well as bike racks and helmets. The cost is $500 for the adult bikes and $300 for the youth bikes. Welsh said the YMCA might also purchase a toddler trailer for $300.
“It can be expensive with the bikes that we are getting. We want to find durable bikes,” Welsh said.
The estimated cost is just under $11,000 for the bikes and other supplies including a security camera. The Belleville Parks and Recreation Department has donated money for two adult bikes and a youth bike.
The YMCA is collaborating with the city of Belleville, St. Clair County Health Department, St. Clair County Transit District and Bicycle World in Belleville to bring the bike-rental station to Belleville. Bicycle World will provide services each year to maintain the bikes.
“It’s basically something everybody can participate in,” said Mark Peters with the St. Clair County Health Department.
The East Belleville YMCA was chosen for its location due to the proximity to the MetroBikeLink trail.
“We noticed a number of people would drive to the YMCA with their bikes, park and get on the trail and ride,” Welsh said. “The idea was if we had a bike rental program maybe some people that don’t have a way to transport their bike by vehicle or don’t want the hassle of it could rent a bike and ride for the day or just for an hour and get a different type of workout in.”
The cost to rent a bike from the station would be $5 per hour or $15 per day for non-YMCA members or $3 per hour or $10 a day for members. Welsh said he thinks the prices are “very reasonable.”
The bike-rental station would only be open when the YMCA is open. Individuals interested in renting a bike would come into the YMCA to sign up and pay for it, and then a YMCA employee would get a bike from the shelter, which Welsh said looks like a “clam shell.”
The metal shelter would be located near the playground at the YMCA and would take volunteers less than a day to build, he said.
The committee, which has been working on the project for about a year, researched similar programs in the United States including in Chicago and Charlotte, N.C.
“That has helped really guide us,” he said.
Peters said bike rental stations are “very popular” in the St. Louis-metropolitan area.
Welsh said the goal of the program is to “break even. We really want to provide the service,” he said. “Any funds that this generates over operating will be used to replace bikes, repair them and keep up with them.”
If the program is successful and another bike-rental station is built along the trail, Welsh said it would change the classification from recreation to transportation and allow the committee to apply for grants.
“Anybody that wants to support this certainly can, and they can do it at any amount that they would like,” Welsh said.
For more information about the bike-rental station or to make a donation, contact Welsh at the YMCA at 618-233-1243.