A short jaunt on a CoGo bike

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

The city's new bike-share program, CoGo, launched a few weeks ago. I've been eyeing the beautiful racks of gleaming black, white and red bikes ever since. The bike share's not necessarily something I see myself using regularly, since I own a few bikes of my own and use them often. But there are a few circumstances, for now at least, I can see myself using them.

Like Monday, for instance. I packed my lunch for work, but forgot the salad dressing for my salad. So, I hopped on the CoGo website to scope out the nearest station (I kind of already knew its location) and whether there was a docking station near the Hills Market Downtown. Yup and yup. I walked a block north toward the docking station, briefly perused the instructions and inserted my debit card in this thing:

Once I paid, the machine spit out a receipt with a 5-digit code (comprised soley of 2s and 3s). I took the receipt to a bike. Entered the code on a key pad near the bike's front tire, and voila. It took a minor bit of effort to get the bike undocked, but this process became smoother on subsequent undockings.

Then, it was time for some fun. But first, a safety lesson:

First thing I noticed once I un-docked? Where the hell do I join up with the road? The corner of Gay and 3rd streets wasn't convenient for easy access east toward the Hills Market. 3rd is one-way heading south, so I couldn't take an easy left there from the sidewalk. I also couldn't access Gay easily as there was a median separating me from the road heading east as well. Ultimately, I opted to walk the bike across the crosswalk to more easily roll onto Gay.

First impression while on the bike? These things are beasts. Heavy, but easily maneuverable, especially with the three gears.

The ride to Hills Market was uneventful and short, but it was fun. I probably could have walked the route just as easily. But when I could randomly ring bike bells the whole time, why not just opt for the bike?

Before I finally arrived at Hills Market, however, I had to stop by the side of the road and look up the nearby docking station on my phone (I had forgotten its location already). CoGo says it's close to launching an app, but I found that CycleFinder worked well for now. Docking the bike was simple, and then I was off to the market.

After picking up my salad dressing, I made my way back to the dock and tried to type in my 5-digit code again. No go, CoGo. I had to get another receipt from the vending machine by re-inserting my debit card. With a new 5-digit code, I was off again. I took a slight detour on the ride back simply for the pleasure of it, then docked the bike back where I started.

A few older ladies passed by during this process (apparently on their lunch-break walk) and inquired about the bike share. I was perhaps overly enthusiastic in my response, because in hindsight a few things have stuck with me:

First, I know this is early in the program's existence, but its limitations are evident. With time and expansion, I could see many of those go away. Thirty docking stations and 300 bikes is a lot, but when those bikes are mostly Downtown, away from the core of the city's residents, I don't see them being used, especially after business hours, as much as they could be if they were, say, in the Short North or near Campus. Imagine hitting up an early show at Kobo on a Friday night, then feeling energized and wanting to hit up the Short North, but not wanting to pay for a taxi or drive there and deal with parking. To my ears at least, that sounds pretty glorious.

Otherwise, the cost for a single-day pass is fairly steep ($6), but the yearly pass ($75) seems like a great deal if you knew you were going to use the program regularly.

In any case, I had a blast on my initial spin, and I'm definitely looking forward to finding new ways to use CoGo.