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VOL. 133 | NO. 125 | Friday, June 22, 2018

Month-old Bike-Share Program Exceeding Expectations in Memphis

Toni Lepeska, Special to The Daily News

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And we’re rollin’! The new bicycle-sharing system introduced a month ago is exceeding expectations and fueling hopes that Memphis is on a revolutionary pathway to improve health and community connectivity.

Explore Bike Share released statistics Wednesday, June 20, that revealed nearly 3,000 residents and visitors have taken 6,423 rides since the system was rolled out in May. About half the trips were completed by the 544 monthly or annual members that signed on for repeat use.

“We weren’t sure how quickly we’d see positive ridership trends,” said Trey Moore, executive director of the nonprofit, Explore Bike Share, which launched the 60-station, 600-bicycle system after two years of preparation. “This shows Bike Share is something the city embraces.”

One month after launching in Memphis, the Explore Bike Share program is showing signs of success. (Daily News File/Houston Cofield)

To access bicycles, individual users pay $5 for a 60-minute ride and redock bicycles at a destination station. Riders also may pay $15 for monthly use or $120 for annual use.

Explore Bike Share solicited the input of residents, business operators and neighborhood and community organizations in conceiving of the sharing system. They submitted thousands of suggested points for bikes, but funds limited sites. So far, bicyclists have covered 26,078 miles between the 60 stations that span Downtown, West Memphis, South Memphis, Cooper Young, Orange Mound and Crosstown.

Officials plan to expand the system’s range in 2019 with the help of a congestion mitigation and air-quality grant from the Department of Transportation. Explore Bike Share hopes to put stations at college campuses such as the University of Memphis, Christian Brothers and Rhodes College, Moore said, and into additional neighborhoods.

The organization’s mission is to improve health, culture, transportation and tourism in the city. One way to do that is to provide affordable rental bicycles – pedal power.

According to the first month of statistics, riders burned an estimated 1.09 million calories on the bicycles. The total carbon offset was 26,078 pounds.

Overton Park topped the most popular stations with about 400 trips while the east Big River Crossing came in at second place. Beale Street Landing, Court Square, Crosstown Concourse, Memphis Park, Loflin Yard, Front and Beale, Hudson Transit Center and South Main and Talbot finished out the top 10 most popular spots.

The figures reveal Overton Park bicycles are used throughout the day and evening while there’s a spike during the late afternoon and evenings at the Big River Crossing stations. Explore Bike Share took advantage of the Big River Crossing trail and installed stations on each side of the river and one at the Pancho’s restaurant at the trail terminus, Moore said.

The Court Square location appears to be getting a good mix of users from out-of-towners and from local Downtown workers. Explore Bike Share expects additional data to eventually provide a clearer picture of use based on residency. Given that visitors to the city would be more likely to be single-time users, officials believe use is strong by visitors, Moore said.

Asked about what Explore Bike Share officials learned the first month, Moore cited the best ways to educate city residents and others about the program.

“We’re learning every day,” he said. “This is a new opportunity for Memphis.”

The most effective educational tool, Moore said, is utilizing partners who are rooted in the neighborhoods. In turn, the partners provide insight into what will work in their specific neighborhoods.

CLTV or, “The Collective,” which helps provide platforms for African-American artists in Memphis, is one of Explore Bike Share’s partners. CLTV is working with Melrose High School students who will be providing public art at bicycle stations in Orange Mound in the fall after participating in workshops and meetings where residents provide input into what they’d like to see.

“So they’ll look like they belong,” Victoria Jones, CLTV executive director said of the bike stations, “and not just dropped off.”

Jones believes the bicycle sharing system will bolster community accessibility, and residents will learn “neighborhoods that are close by but don’t seem that close” will indeed be closer with bike use.

One bicycle-sharing station is in the parking lot of Memphis Made Brewing. The Cooper-Young business has a bike-friendly designation from The League of American Cyclists. Andy Ashby, brewery co-founder and vice president, said a lot of the users seem to be headed for Overton Square. He’s observed a shift in Memphis over the past few years as more bicycling infrastructure has been introduced.

“It’s something that Memphis needs,” Ashby said. “It’s an inexpensive transportation option for a variety of people, and it’s good exercise. Every time we get new bike lanes or additional Greenline, people respond to that. A few years ago, you ride a bike in Memphis, you’d take your life in your hands.”

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