City offers bike rentals
Tourists have new option to get around town
By Scott Bellile
People who desire to explore the city on two wheels will have a new option later this summer when the New London Area Chamber of Commerce introduces an hourly bicycle rental service.
The New London Economic Development Committee authorized the purchase of 10 Trek dual sport hybrid bicycles for $5,250 on June 26.
The bikes are expected to arrive later this month. They would be rented out at the chamber building at 420 N. Shawano St.
Ranging in frame sizes from 15.5 to 21 inches, the 10 bicycles will be purchased from Wheel and Sprocket in Appleton. The store slashed the manufacturer’s suggested retail price by $1,500, according to a quote provided to the economic development committee.
Physical therapist and longtime New London resident Tammy Vanevenhoven proposed the bike rental service to the economic development committee. A cyclist herself, she said the program could be one more way to make the city attractive to tourists as well as prospective residents and businesses.
“I think it would be a wonderful way to get people to get out into our community to see all the wonderful things that we have to offer,” Vanevenhoven said, suggesting the downtown, New London Aquatic and Fitness Center, the Wolf River and Mosquito Hill Nature Center as destinations they might pedal to.
“I think it’s definitely a good idea that’s worth a try, and if we don’t give things that are a good idea a try, we might as well go ahead and stick our head in the sand,” New London Mayor Gary Henke told the committee.
Being next door to Pfeifer Park, Vanevenhoven said the chamber’s bike rental service could appeal to parents who are at the park for a Saturday youth baseball tournament and want to leave to go explore the city, but don’t want to give up a good parking spot.
The problem is chamber staff, who would handle bike rentals on weekdays, do not work on weekends. Vanevenhoven said she could ask New London High School if National Honor Society members would volunteer to facilitate bike rentals on Saturdays as a way to fulfill their community service requirements.
The rental service would only be offered when the weather is warm in summer and fall, Vanevenhoven said, so student help would not be needed the rest of the year.
A bike rental program in Green Bay inspired Vanevenhoven’s proposal.
Vanevenhoven provided to the committee a waiver from a Green Bay business that would serve as a model for New London’s program. Customers must acknowledge their risk of injury or death. Riders are billed extra for any bikes returned damaged, dirty or late. They must return the bike immediately without a refund if sighted riding without a helmet.
Bikes can be checked out by adults or by children with a parent or guardian signature. Vanevenhoven recommended an age minimum of 12 in New London due to bicycle heights.
In Green Bay, bikes cost $15 per hour to rent. New London could consider implementing a more affordable rate of $10 per hour, Vanevenhoven said.
The service wouldn’t make a “huge profit,” she said, because the dollars generated would go toward bike maintenance.
If the chamber’s program is successful, Vanevenhoven said perhaps a privately owned bicycle shop would open downtown and take over rental duties, which is what happened in Green Bay.
“I think there’s a great potential for drawing a bike company into our town if we have that presence of trying to become a cycling area,” Vanevenhoven said.
“I think there would be a huge amount [of potential] once the interest was there,” committee member Bill Bishop said in agreement.
A bike rental service would be useful to put in place in anticipation of the city of New London extending the Newton Blackmour State Trail from the east side of the city into the centrally located Pfeifer Park, Vanevenhoven said.
The estimated $1 million trail extension is in the planning stages and will not be completed for several years. The city recently applied for grants to fund the project through the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Outagamie County Greenway Fund, New London Public Services Director stated in a memo submitted to the New London Parks and Recreation Committee last week.