VOL. 133 | NO. 103 | Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Rolling by the River
By Patrick Lantrip
After nearly two years of planning, preparation and hard work, Explore Bike Share in Memphis has finally rolled out. Despite the early morning heat and humidity, several hundred onlookers and volunteers assembled Downtown in Court Square Wednesday, May 23, to celebrate the official launch of the 600-bike fleet.
“This is yet another day of evidence that Memphis has momentum,” city chief operating officer Doug McGowen said. “It is a new day for mobility in the city of Memphis.”
McGowen said he thought it was fitting that as the hundreds of volunteers were trickling in before the ceremony, several trolleys were making their way past Court Square. The Downtown trolleys were absent for four years while being refurbished and tested for safety.
Explore Bike Share’s fleet will be spread across 60 bike stations from Downtown, South Memphis and Cooper-Young to Orange Mound, Overton Square and Crosstown. The program was funded through a combination of donations and a $2.2 million federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant.
“It’s a nexus of all good things happening and it’s just the beginning,” McGowen said. “We have a commitment and grant to fully fund another 300 bikes and 30 stations next year.”
Single rides will cost $5, while weekly memberships are $12 and monthly memberships are $15. There is also the option to purchase a $120 annual membership or a $200 pay-it-forward annual membership that will also provide an underprivileged Memphian access to the fleet for an entire year.
“I encourage everyone to get a pay it forward membership if you can afford to do so,” McGowen said.
Bob Burns, president of BCycle – the company Explore Bike Share contracted with to operate the Memphis system – and general counsel for Trek Bicycle Corp., said Memphis joins the vanguard of cities that use bicycles as part of their transportation infrastructure.
“When you make a high-quality bicycle available to someone who doesn’t otherwise have affordable transportation, you change their lives,” Burns said. “All of a sudden that person can get across town to a job, they can get across town for recreation, and they can get places that they couldn’t get to before.”
Burns said Wednesday was not only a special day for Memphis, it was also a special day for BCycle.
“Today is the launch of our 50th system,” he said. “And I can’t think of a better city than Memphis to launch our 50th system.”
Kevin Kane, president of the Memphis Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Kevin Woods with BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee were also on hand to speak about their respective organizations’ partnership with BCycle to brand part of the fleet with “I Love Memphis” and Blue Cross Blue Shield marketing.
“Before it even officially opened, a family from Nebraska walked up and said, ‘we’re ready to rent them now,’” Kane said. “Our first customers were out-of-town tourists.”
But Kane was quick to add this isn’t only a tourism amenity.
“This is an amenity for all citizens of Memphis, Shelby County and the region to take advantage of, enjoy, and explore Memphis in a way that many people have never explored it before,” he said.