BARBERTON:

Not having a bike is no longer an excuse for not riding a bike.

Starting Friday, residents and visitors to the Magic City can borrow a bike, helmet and lock free of charge at one of three locations.

The bike stations are at Lake Anna YMCA and Barberton Public Library (on either side of Lake Anna), and the Stark State Barberton Campus, 664 Norton Ave.

Each site will have four bikes, helmets and locks, which can be borrowed for the day by showing a photo ID and signing a waiver.

The kickoff of the Barberton Bike Share program coincides with May’s National Bike Month. The Barberton Community Foundation made it happen with a $12,000 grant and additional funds from a Summit County Public Health Creating Healthy Communities grant.

Foundation President Jim Stonkus said the bike program is a win-win-win. Users increase fitness activity, the bicyclists may patronize local restaurants and stores, and the host stations will get some extra attention.

“This will be another incentive to choose Barberton as a place to live, to work and play,” Stonkus said.

Dan Rice of the Ohio & Erie Canalway Coalition said Barberton’s program is patterned after one started in Akron last year and “makes perfectly good sense” for all communities along the Ohio & Erie Towpath Trail, which stretches from Zoar in Tuscarawas County to Cleveland.

Rice said discussions for similar bike programs are taking place in Cuyahoga Falls, Massillon and New Philadelphia.

Rice said surveys indicate that millennials (people in their 20s to mid-30s) are gravitating toward urban centers where they can get around without having to drive a car. Communities that find a way to serve their transportation needs “are going to thrive” and bike share programs are “a way to promote livability in urban cores.”

In Akron, more than 30 bikes can be borrowed from eight locations. Two sites charge a fee; the others are free. Akron limits the loan time to two hours. For a list of locations and hours at Akron bike sites, visit summitshare.org.

The Ohio Erie Canalway Coalition is serving as the fiscal agent for Barberton’s program, and R-D Bike Shop in Barberton will maintain the bikes.

Akron Children’s Hospital provided the helmets, and Stark State College welding students designed and created the bike racks.

Don Kaser, who owns R-D Bike Shop with his wife, Ruth Kaser, said Barberton is a great town for bicyclists.

“The streets are pretty easy to navigate, the downtown is lightly traveled and the towpath is easily accessible,” he said.

He said the idea of lending bikes to folks who don’t have them is a great idea.

“There may be people who are thinking about buying a bike, and it’s a way for them to check it out and see if it’s right for them without the expense,” Kaser said. “I also like the idea that people who are coming into town and staying can get a bike to use to get around.”

Earlier this month, Barberton received an honorable mention as a “2017 Bike Friendly Community” from the League of American Bicyclists. It was one of nearly 450 communities in the country recognized for making “bicycling a part of their solution to issues of health, job access, traffic safety and the environment,” according to the group’s website.

Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or pschleis@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/paulaschleis.