Ashland's bike-share program could be part of the solution to the downtown parking crunch.
The innovative transportation service started with just one station and now has three — one on the Plaza, one at the YMCA and one at Siskiyou Boulevard and Glendale Avenue. Two more will be added by the end of next month: one near the Southern Oregon University dormitories and one at Safeway.
It's a testament to Ashland's bike-friendly culture that the expansion was possible. When Ashland had just one of the valley's stations, it got 50 percent of the usage. When the Rogue Valley Council of Governments took over funding from United Way, Ashland was targeted as a pilot project.
Using the service is easy and affordable. Download the Zagster app to your smartphone or go online to bike.zagster.com/jacksoncounty. Renting a bike costs $3 an hour, but users who buy a membership get the first two hours free and pay $2 an hour after that.
Most bike-share programs are designed for single trips, but these bikes come with locks, so users can secure a bike at several locations before returning it.
The bike-share program's potential to reduce car traffic in town is obvious, and realizing that potential will depend on how well it is marketed. The Oregon Shakespeare Festival and local hotels should promote the program to visitors.
The bike-share program won't solve the parking problem by itself, but it's one piece of a multi-pronged approach that can help make a difference in the long run.