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VOL. 130 | NO. 187 | Friday, September 25, 2015

Memphis Bike Share on Track for Launch Next Year

By Madeline Faber

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All signs are pointing to Memphis getting a bike-sharing program. Explore Bike Share has reached the end of the trail as the local initiative has sent out a request for proposals to take public bikes-for-hire to the next level.

It’s been a busy summer for Doug Carpenter & Associates, the consulting, advertising and PR firm that drummed up public support across nine community input sessions and several online surveys since launching its Explore Bike Share program in June.

After releasing the RFP this month, Explore Bike Share is in talks with seven independent recipients to find one or two national partners to make bike sharing a reality.

Explore Bike Share is ready to hand over the wheel to a national partner for implementation.


The Memphis market is unique for bike sharing and requires a unique partner, said principal Doug Carpenter.

“We need a sustainable model that’s affordable, accessible and available to all Memphians,” he said.

By sustainable, Carpenter means that Memphis’ bike-sharing program will be operated by a to-be-created nonprofit without city financial support. Initial capital investment will come from individual donors and foundations, and bike rentals and sponsorships will keep the businesses afloat.

“In a lot of cases, bike shares are operated by municipalities that have a lot of restrictions,” he said. “When they send out a request for proposals, they can't talk with the vendors. It has to be a blind bid. We're actually openly talking to folks that are interested in bidding and looking for more like a partnership rather than just a service provider.”

The city first dipped its toe into supporting a bike-sharing program in 2013 when it backed a feasibility study done by Alta Planning + Design. According to those early findings, the group recommended 63 rental stations with 580 bikes concentrated in key tourist and dense housing areas. The proposal, which would cost the city around $5 million to implement, fell by the wayside as Memphis worked through larger financial issues.

Explore Bike Share differs from the original study in its focus on linking bike-share stations with existing bus routes, greenways and greenlines to create a comprehensive transit network that reaches all Memphians. One of the RFP’s requirements is that people would be able to rent bikes using cash, an option that bigger cities like Philadelphia are just now implementing in their bike-share programs.

“We see a much broader station siting process and location than that (Alta Planning + Design) map,” Carpenter said.

So far, feedback has been positive, Carpenter said. The RFP closes Oct. 4, and the initiative will settle on a partner by the end of the year with bikes ideally on the ground by September 2016.

Capital fundraising, he added, has been ongoing and very positive but can’t be finalized until Explore Bike Share settles on a proposal. The cost of implementing bike share can fluctuate based on membership structures and the types of bikes.

The winning vendor will take the wheel from Explore Bike Share and manage the business plan, shipping and installation of the bikes and hiring of staff.

Support from Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality funding through the Tennessee Department of Transportation will help the bike-share program hit the road. The grants, totaling $354,560 in funds for the city’s Commute Options Initiative, will support workplaces adding bike-share stations for employees that commute.

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