Memphis Bike Share will be Private, Nonprofit, and Community-led

By Stefani Cox, Better Bike Share Blog 

The bike share model in Memphis is a new one for the United States: It’s driven by an advertising firm and a cadre of multi-sector stakeholders, rather than the government itself.

When local companies, organizations, and community-members in Memphis found out that getting a publicly-driven bike share system would be a no-go, they didn’t give up. In fact, they decided to take matters into their own hands. The result of the collaboration is Explore Bike Share, which is setting up for its big launch later this year with 60 stations and 600 bikes.

Asking big questions first

The idea of bike share in Memphis was first studied in an Alta Planning + Design publication, which emphasized the potential health and environmental benefits of bike share. The company Doug Carpenter + Associates (DCA) became interested in the project and received funding from a local foundation to gather local stakeholders together to discuss the possibilities.

What was unique about the initial study by DCA was that they didn’t go into the yearlong process with any assumptions. In fact, they were open to discovering that bike share might not be the best new transportation option for the 60 percent African-American city.

The team held nine neighborhood community gatherings, where they learned a lot about what various community members were looking for. “The discussion often turned from bike share to general conversation about what transportation looked like in Memphis,” says Sara Studdard, project manager for Explore at DCA. “We look to the leaders in their own communities to shape how that process works.”

Convening the advisory group

After many conversations and lots of additional research into bike share models in other cities, the group decided to move forward with bike share in a 501(c)3, or nonprofit, form. The process is guided by an advisory group of 20-40 people from sectors such as health, culture, and transportation, and from several different regions of the city.

“We consider ourselves conveners in the area of South Memphis,” says Roshun Austin, executive director of The Works, a community development center (CDC) in South Memphis. Roshun serves on the 501(c)3’s nine-member Board of Directors and was also a member of the advisory group.

“We did a neighborhood plan about eight years ago,” says Austin. “Some unique recommendations came out of that. Better pedestrian streets and walkways were desired.”

Austin says that conversations and priorities around equity and station siting in low-income communities of color happened quite naturally because of the population of Memphis. “We won’t do it unless we start with neighborhoods that are not traditionally where you start. We want to start where we’re driving it from the needs of neighbors.”

Building on the foundations

Together the advisory group selected BCycle as the vendor for the bike share system in late 2015. In lieu of city funding, the contracts are being financially driven by foundations and private partnerships.

Studdard emphasized that the service area will include not only Downtown and Midtown, but also four neighborhoods that have health disparities and transportation issues around the “last mile”: Uptown, Binghampton, Orange Mound, and South Memphis.

While the hiring has not yet happened for the executive director and staff of Explore, Studdard says that planning parties are committed to hiring policies that prioritize minority or women-owned businesses. “We want the staff and board to be reflective of Memphis,” she says.

The Memphis team is also interested in pursuing equity-oriented strategies that they’ve seen in other cities, such as bike safety education, ambassador programs, and partnerships with workforce development activities.

Learning while doing

The process has been full of great learning opportunities so far, participants said.

“Equity is not about a specific program but about how a 501(c)3 is managed,” says Studdard. “Community engagement is hard and difficult. It doesn’t happen overnight. We’re patient, and we want to listen and be challenged.”

They are committed to doing a full launch, rather than a smaller pilot program, which they say makes them unique among Southern cities. They’re also conscious of the need to make the system accessible for low-income residents.

“Cash payment will be a mandatory part of our system,” Studdard said. “We want to make as many access points as possible.” She says the collaboration is interested in using the PayNearMe system that other bike share systems access to handle cash payments. But that decision, like others, will be made by the group.

“I feel very grateful that there are national leaders that have led the way,” says Studdard. “We have had seven years to learn from what’s already out there, what’s already been done.”

The Memphis collaboration is still working on the station siting process, which will be an announcement to look for in the coming months, and could be highly important in addressing equity concerns.

Enlisting Bikes In the Fight Against Inequality

By David Dudley, CityLab

After a sluggish couple of decades, this was the year Baltimore suddenly got into the bicycle infrastructure game. The city’s first bike-share system, which was years in the making, opened recently, along with a small but meaningful network of protected lanes, including a pair of cycle tracks that are protected from traffic. These may not be the sort of deluxe bike highways that would make a Portlander or Montrealer envious, but their arrival represents a major leap forward for a city that’s struggled, historically, to put the pieces together, mobility-wise.

In typically Baltimorean fashion, the road forward has not been entirely smooth. When my local neighborhood association debated the installation of a protected cycle track, residents packed public meetings to hurl profanities at the city, and each other, over the issue. And the rollout of the bike-share system had drawn criticism of a different sort. Ellen Worthing, a Baltimore blogger and open-data advocate, made a series of revealing maps that overlaid bike rack locations, bike share stations, and bike lanes with the city’s racial demographics; Lawrence Brown, a community health professor and activist at Morgan State University, observed on Twitter that, like so many transportation amenities, bicycle infrastructure appeared to be concentrated in the city’s more affluent—and whiter—districts, a band of waterfront that extends northward in a strip known locally as “the White L.”

Baltimore’s struggle to address racial and economic inequity issues in transportation, appease skeptical motorists, and turn the corner on better bicycling infrastructure mirrors similar debates taking place in other cities, from New York City to London. The culture of bicycle advocacy itself is often seen as a movement that can unwittingly accelerate the displacement of low-income communities—and confronting that perception has become a key challenge for bike advocates nationwide. Liz Cornish, who leads the bike-boosting nonprofit Bikemore, has been getting a crash course in this phenomenon.

As Women Bike Manager for the League of American Bicyclists in Washington, D.C., Cornish had been working to help encourage more women riders; previously, she had been involved in educational nonprofits and worked for Outward Bound in Omaha, Nebraska. “People were very curious about why I moved to Baltimore,” she says. “They asked me, ‘What’s it like there?’ I think they were expecting me to say it’s hard to bike here when you have to dodge violent crime all the time. But the single hardest thing to deal with in Baltimore is this belief that comes from decades of mistrust and mistreatment and disinvestment that says, ‘Nothing good can happen here.’”

Cornish talked to CityLab about the culture-changing power of bike lanes, and how to—and how not to—convince citizens and lawmakers to build them. Our conversation has been edited and condensed.

You’re a relative newcomer to Baltimore; how did you end up fighting for bike infrastructure in a city that’s never had much of a reputation as being bicycle friendly?

What has always motivated me was making cities healthy and safe places for kids to grow up. I used to think school reform was the way to do that. But what I found was that the fastest way to get people engaged was to improve neighborhoods—figuring out ways to make it nice for people to walk and bike places, and then making it easy for business owners to create places for people to walk and bike to.

When I worked for Outward Bound in Omaha, I got involved in an organization called the Benson Ames Alliance. That was the first time I learned about things like urbanism and designing streets for biking and walking. The transformation I witnessed in Benson was something I’d never seen before. You had this streetcar suburb that had been annexed many decades before, and the streetcar had gone away and you were left with this Main Street that, design-wise, was great—lots of mixed-use development, with stores on the bottom and apartments on the top. But the storefronts were empty. Over the course of three years, they all filled up. There was this shine on a neighborhood that had been forgotten. And then suddenly people started to care deeply about the quality of the education that was happening in that neighborhood high school.

It seems like there's a growing understanding, even in places that are not thought of as particularly progressive on bikes, that they can encourage all kinds of positive changes.

Think about Indianapolis and their cultural trail—not just the economic development that's been spurred by that trail, but the shift in that town’s culture. Cities are a great place to work in if you are a natural problem solver, because they’ve got lots of problems. Biking is a tool with which you can address all these different problems. So if you want to talk about public health inequities, let's talk about how to design neighborhoods where there are safe places to get exercise, because we know that cardiac disease is one of the leading drivers of public health inequities.

In these discussions about bike equity, people are often thinking only in terms of the physical infrastructure—where the bike lanes or bike-share stations are located. That's important. But biking also lends itself to having a macro discussion about equity. We've designed our cities in such a way that it can produce terrible air quality. In Baltimore City, the number-one reason why kids miss school is asthma-related illness. And we know that reducing a single car trip can improve air quality. We don't think about that as an equity issue. But I do. In some ways, getting anyone out of their car and reducing traffic congestion is a win for that particular equity issue. Biking is a very cheap solution to that very complex health problem.

Let’s talk about those costs a bit. The cycle track that just opened is part of a $3 million bike infrastructure build-out. In Baltimore—as in many cities—plenty of taxpayers object to those costs, which they see as only benefiting a relative handful of recreational riders.

Well, in Baltimore’s Southeast Transportation plan, one of the projects being recommended in the current draft of the plan is $50 million to widen a quarter-mile stretch of Boston Street. We know that widening streets only induces demand, so while it may relieve congestion for a few years, five years later we are right back where we started. $50 million is also the cost of Portland’s entire investment in bike infrastructure, and it’s also the price tag for Paris’ bike-share system, which is one of the largest in the world. $50 million dollars is also what it would cost to repair every single sidewalk in Baltimore City. If you went to taxpayers and said, “Would you rather have that quarter-mile stretch of street widened, or would you rather see every sidewalk in the city repaired,” I think we know what most people would say. And yet most of our decision makers don't see it that way. They are prioritizing car travel over literally everything else.

You can’t talk about investing in neighborhoods in Baltimore without talking about inequality and race. How do you address the cultural issues in bike advocacy on this?

We know that some of Baltimore's challenges are the direct result of the decades of disinvestment in our black neighborhoods—the strategic disinvestment in black neighborhoods. So we have to figure out how to correct for that. I just came back from a conference called The Untokening, which was a gathering of biking advocates from around the country that were interested in creating a learning space to center racial justice in their work on mobility. Having been to plenty of biking and walking things over the last few years, you get used to seeing all the same people. When I got into this room, I knew the organizers, but I didn’t know everybody else. They did a really great job of bringing people that normally may not have that access.

There are countless examples of cities that are challenged in this area. Memphis is now launching their bike-share system, and the intention with which they are doing community engagement before they launch is really impressive. The city was completely open to the idea of doing the outreach and then hearing, “We don’t want bike share.” The goal of advocacy shouldn’t be to get tunnel vision and just champion your cause. The goal should be about helping to lift up everyone you can with your work. I’m only a good advocate if there are people in every neighborhood that are also championing a similar ideal or vision.  

That’s why moving to Baltimore has been such a humbling experience. No matter what my background is, there’s no winning in terms of changing the way people think about transportation if this is a conversation that’s only centered around a tall blonde white lady from the Midwest. There’s no winning in making that happen. So I’ve had to think creatively in terms of engaging as many people around this conversation as possible.

So how do you go into say, West Baltimore, where there has been real resistance to bike lanes in the past, and have that conversation?

You can’t lead with bikes. That’s not the point. The point is safety. The point is health. So I have to be able to sit and listen to neighbors who’ve lived in that neighborhood for longer than I’ve been in Baltimore, and rely on their experience and knowledge of the area, about what works and what doesn’t, and what has been tried and what’s failed. We try to remind people that we know that commute time is one of the most significant indicators of someone's ability to move out of poverty. And we know that some of Baltimore's most vulnerable neighborhoods have some of the longest commute times. They are in the city but they can't get to jobs or amenities like healthcare and schools and groceries without being on the bus for an hour.

So, what are you asking? Are you saying, “I’m gonna put a bike-share location here—is that a problem?” That’s a terrible way. When I ask people what do they want their neighborhood to feel like, there isn’t a single neighborhood in this city, or a single person I’ve talked to, that hasn’t said things like, well, I wish the cars drove slower. And I wish there was a safe place for my kid to learn to ride a bike and play. And I wish there was something for me to walk to, like a restaurant or a coffee shop or a dry cleaners. These are universal quality-of-life things that every neighborhood desires. After I hear that, that’s an opportunity for me to say, actually, there are solutions to some of these things. And one of many solutions is building a bike lane. It calms traffic. It makes the crossing distance shorter. It provides connectivity to things inside and outside your neighborhood. That’s how you have the conversation. And it hasn’t failed me yet.

There’s been criticism here about what parts of the city are now receiving bike-related investments, and you see similar questions raised about Citi Bike in New York City, which is under some pressure from activists to expand into lower-income parts of the city.

That impatience when it relates to equity is 100 percent valid, and I share it. I think I’m still learning how to address that. The critique has been levied: Why isn’t this happening in other neighborhoods? There’s a really long answer that deals with funding, and the city’s over-reliance on community organizations to help guide master planning. What if your community doesn’t have someone with an urban planning degree on their board to get things done? How do you champion these things if you say you’re only going to come there if you ask for it? That’s one reason we focus on high-level policy change, because this stuff should be standard. Bike lanes should be standard operating procedure, not something you have to fight for.

But I don’t think we were going to be able to shift our thinking until we had something tangible that said, “It works here,” so that people could see the sky doesn’t fall when you take away a lane of traffic. Without having something in the ground, it’s really hard to make the kind of sweeping change people are asking for.

I do feel like that’s the reason Bikemore has been able to be modestly successful. I believe it can happen, and it deserves to happen. And it doesn’t matter how many people say it can’t or it won’t. I’ve lived in enough places that are just like this. I’ve seen it happen. The ball is already rolling down the hill. I’m just hanging on, and trying to point it in the right direction.

 

Gaining Ground to Cycle on the Streets of Memphis

By Stacy Wiedower, Commercial Appeal

Avid bicyclist Kendra Hotz has always loved to ride for recreation. Four years ago, she cycled up a notch and became a bike commuter.

“I had always wanted to commute to work just because I love riding so much, but wasn’t sure how to do it safely,” said Hotz, who commutes 13 miles round trip to her job at Rhodes College.

She followed blogs, studied safety guidelines and took two dozen practice rides during low-traffic hours. At first she rode to work two days a week, eventually making the switch to full-time bicycle commuter. And then a year later, she found a resource that could have helped her from the start: Revolutions Bicycle Cooperative, a Midtown-based organization for cyclists whose mission is “building an inclusive community by getting people on bicycles.”

Founded 14 years ago, Revolutions has lately been involved in strategic planning to connect more Memphians with the resources they need to ride for fun, exercise and transportation.

“We’re an educational organization who is working to connect people and bicycles because we believe we are building a better, more inclusive community by getting people on bicycles,” said Sylvia Crum, executive director. “We look at bicycles as a tool.”

A lot of people, Crum said, view bikes as a kid’s toy.

“Children are given a bicycle at Christmas and sent out to play,” she said. “We want children to be given bikes and view them as really fun. But we’re helping people who, say, want to ride with their children to get them to school. It’s an active form of participation. It gets your brain fired up because you’re peddling instead of riding in a car.”

Obviously bicycling has health benefits. But it has community-building benefits, too, and that’s partly what Revolutions Bicycle Coop is about. Its diverse membership of around 300 Memphis-area bicycle enthusiasts includes experienced cyclists and newbies, occasional riders and daily commuters.

Members have access to the organization’s workshop tools and its classes, like “Basic Bike Assessment” and “Fix a Flat.” In the former, attendees learn the basics of how a bike works, including how to be sure it’s in good working order and safe to ride. The latter teaches riders not only how to repair a flat and get back on the road, but also how to prevent them.

The group has offered beginning rider classes, as well as a seasonal class called “How to Ride in the Street.”

“We like to help people feel as confident as they do on the Green Line on the streets of Memphis so they can use a bicycle as transportation,” Crum said. “Especially among women, there’s a fear of going out into the street. We’ve run that class twice and we’ve really seen great success.”

Hotz said the class is a game-changer.

“It is the class that I wish had existed when I started riding for transportation,” she said. “I needed someone to ride with me and show me the ropes and help me build confidence. This class is designed to do all of that.”

Membership in Revolutions Bicycle Cooperative costs $50 a year and includes access to members-only classes and a T-shirt. Other resources, though, are free and open to the community, including a “women’s bike chat” that takes place every third Sunday at Revolutions’ shop at 1000 S. Cooper St. in First Congregational Church. (Bike parking is available on the Cooper side of First Congo.)

Group rides are also free and open to the community, and they’re another big part of Revolutions’ mission. People come from across the Mid-South to join Revolutions’ group rides. Joe Fennell, who gets around almost exclusively by bicycle and city bus, likes to take part in the regularly scheduled rides to connect with the community of cyclists that’s formed around the shop.

Fennell started hanging around Revolutions shortly after its inception, volunteering off and on in the years since.

“It was during volunteering that I learned the skills to maintain my bicycles,” he said. “Starting out with basic repairs, learning how to diagnose a bicycle for overhaul, to fully overhauling a bicycle.”

Most recently, Revolutions has experimented with a business membership package that encourages work colleagues to try out bicycling together. Classes might include commuting, route mapping, group rides, bike tune-ups and more, and the organization welcomes feedback from local businesses on what might benefit their employees.

“We’ll talk through street riding safety tips, things to consider if you’re going to ride out in business clothes to pick up lunch or go to meeting,” Crum explains. “We’ll tailor it from there.”

Revolutions is moving and growing with the community in other ways. As Explore Bike Share runs a crowdfunding campaign with the goal of launching a bike share program across the city, Revolutions is getting in on the effort.

“We feel like if we can educate people on how to be comfortable on the street, then when bike share stations pop up, people will feel more confident,” Crum said.

Mainly, Revolutions wants to make it easier for Memphians to ride, period. The group offers bike rentals at low cost – $5 for a standard bike, $10 for a family cargo bike that can carry children. Revolutions also sells refurbished bikes, raising funds for its educational programs while offering riders an affordable option to get them on the streets.

“We’re really trying to connect people and bicycles and just be a resource to help people gain confidence about how to use a bicycle,” Crum said.

Now that she rides almost everywhere for transportation, Hotz has discovered that this activity she happens to love comes with many benefits.

“It’s good for my health, both physical and mental,” she said. “I feel more connected with the city, its people and neighborhoods. Riding a bike is a major money-saver compared to driving, and replacing car trips with bike trips – even if you only do it from time to time – is good for the environment.”

Green Renaissance

By Don Wade, Memphis Daily News

As director of Shelby Farms Park Conservancy, Jen Andrews has been on the front lines of what can fairly be called a green revival in Memphis. And she is amazed at how much change has occurred over the last decade, a rebirth that spans not just across the miles but now seems embedded in the city’s psyche.

“I feel like it’s a city that’s reinvented itself,” said Andrews, with the recent opening of the $52 million Heart of the Park project at Shelby Farms being one part of the revitalization. “It didn’t change who it was, but it reinvented itself – a sprawling city that chose to reconnect itself.

“I also feel there’s an optimism in the city that I didn’t feel when I started work here in 2006. Memphis has become a city that believes in making things better for the public realm. A lot of people who have come out to the park recently have said to me, `Gosh, we’re so lucky to have this here.’ And gratitude is important. But I hope eventually people will feel they deserve it.”

In a sense, it’s almost as though people – maybe especially those who grew up here – are working through the last vestige of an inferiority complex that was once foundational to being a Memphian.

If that’s so, then Heart of the Park, a portion of a $70 Shelby Farms Park Master Plan, is part of the therapy with its reimagined Patriot Lake, a sleek new Visitor Center and many other new or enhanced amenities.

Tina Sullivan, now executive director of Overton Park Conservancy, graduated Frayser High School in 1989, and then left Memphis and lived in several other cities, including San Diego and San Francisco, before coming back to town in 2009. She says she immediately felt a shift in the way the community viewed its green spaces.

“There’s a lot of excitement for the assets we have,” Sullivan said. “For the millennials, they think we have a great city, love Overton Park, moved to Midtown because of the walkability of the neighborhoods. I see a sense of civic pride that I do not recall from growing up in Memphis in the 1980s.”

So it’s a not a change that happened just last the decade, but more like, what, over the last 30 years? Joe Royer, co-founder of Outdoors Inc. back in 1974, says no, everything that is happening now started even earlier.

“All the people that wanted that 11-lane highway with no median right through the center of (Shelby Farms Park) are now big supporters of the park,” said Royer, who was an early member of Friends of Shelby Farms. “And that’s great. The same people that were in favor of Interstate 40 going through Overton Park are in favor of the Overton Park Conservancy.

“It’s been a 50-year effort,” Royer, 68, said, taking on the role of historian. “It hasn’t been a 10-year effort.”

CONNECTED

Andrews and Sullivan are two of the presenters at the Tuesday, Oct. 11, Memphis Newsmakers Seminar: The Transformation of Parks & Greenways. Hosted by The Daily News Publishing Co., it will run from 3 to 5 p.m. at the Brooks Museum with a wine and cheese reception to follow. To register, contact leah@memphisdailynews.com.

Joining Sullivan and Andrews as presenters are Doug Carpenter, principal of DCA and Explore Bike Share founder; Keith Cole, executive director of Wolf River Conservancy; and John Zeanah, deputy director of the Memphis & Shelby County Division of Planning and Development. The event will include a panel discussion moderated by Eric Barnes, publisher and CEO of The Daily News, and an interactive Q & A session with the audience.

Each presenter will have his or her own story to tell, but those stories in many cases intersect and overlap physically and philosophically.

Zeanah served as program manager for the Mid-South Greenprint, a 25-year plan to create 500 miles of greenway trails and 200 miles of bicycle paths/lanes by 2040. It’s an enormous undertaking, including Shelby and Fayette counties in Tennessee, Crittenden County in Arkansas and DeSoto County in Mississippi. Also, 18 other municipalities have signed on, Zeanah said.

Cole points to all of these projects and others, such as the Harahan Bridge, as having a growing power because of their relation to one another: “Take all of these, roll them up together, it’s like a tsunami.”

And you can’t have a tsunami without a big body of water. Royer, whose company for more than 30 years has put on a canoe and kayak race on the Mississippi River, believes the river is the starting point for much of the good that has happened in Memphis. Not to mention the river’s place as a living history lesson – without which there would be no civic conversation about the transformation of parks and greenways and bike paths across 700 miles and three states.

“We have this magnificent river,” Royer said. “Largest river in North America. And I don’t think we’ve scratched the finger yet on how important it is. I think every school kid from Little Rock and Birmingham and Nashville and Atlanta ought to be coming to Tom Lee Park for a school trip. When it snows in Yellowstone, it flows by Tom Lee Park. When you’re watching Monday Night Football, the sleet in (Pittsburgh) is flowing through Memphis.”

Said Carpenter: “Downtown’s greatest asset is its river. That’s why this town is here, why the industry is here.”

Carpenter says the river has framed Memphis to this point, adding, “Creativity is developed when there are parameters. Having an empty slate is harder than having to work with a constricted process. Downtown can’t grow in the water and you can’t go into the flood plain. So we’re forced to move north and south and there are restrictions to some degree. East runs out and our sprawl has not been a great thing.”

What’s going on now with parks and greenways, he says, has a role to play in the “recruiting and retention” of people in Memphis. The Wolf River Greenway, Heart of the Park, Overton Square, Explore Bike Share and other efforts are all part of attracting and keeping businesses and employees while changing daily life for citizens already here.

Or as Sullivan said: “It’s both the right way to live and the right way to do business.”

WHAT PROGRESS LOOKS LIKE

When Cole started at the Wolf River Conservancy (WRC) in 2011, the Greenway was a “20-year project.” Then came a generous donation from the Hyde Family Foundations and now the timeline is for the approximately 25-mile Greenway to be finished by 2019 or 2020.

Construction of a Greenway Raleigh segment on 120 acres of WRC land began in August. The Mud Island to Second Street segment is being started this month. Kennedy Park in Raleigh and bordering Frayser is one of the city’s largest and most underused parks and Cole concedes the park has had crime problems, but believes the Greenway can be part of cleaning that up.

“We believe we’re doing so much more than building a 12-foot wide hiking and biking path,” he said. “The real success is in how the community uses it.”

Overton Park Conservancy long has been improving pedestrian, wheelchair and bike access to the park. The park is also moving forward with an Urban Forestry Fellowship program in conjunction with Rhodes College, in which students are trained to identify ecological strengths and weaknesses on site – gauging the health of trees, gaps in the canopy, and the state of the forest floor.

But it’s the Greensward issue about the parking of cars on the park’s lawn that generated the big headlines and inspired protests.

“That controversy had both positive and negative long-term effects,” Sullivan said. “Obviously, it has been a distraction for our staff and our board. And we incurred costs not anticipated and that could have an impact on the budget long-term. But it re-energized advocates. Now we have a broader base of supporters and shareholders.”

Carpenter says Shelby Farms Park hasn’t just made some improvements, but “re-introduced a public asset that is resort-style quality and there for every citizen.”

Other enhancements tied to Heart of the Park: a stunning Events Center with a signature restaurant that has indoor and outdoor seating; a new water playground and Wetlands Walk; an event stage and picnic pavilions; and separate walking and cycling paths around Patriot Lake.

“Heart of the Park is likely the biggest thing we’ll ever do – the centerpiece of our master plan,” said Andrews.

Going forward, she says the task is to make good on the mission of operating well and using the revenue generated by improvements to tend to the park’s ecosystem. Still to be resolved is the proposed Shelby Farms Parkway that ostensibly would ease traffic congestion around the park with only limited environmental disruption. (That, like the Overton Park Greensward, is its own debate).

Explore Bike Share, which Carpenter hopes will be wheels on the ground by next spring, could be the ultimate moving link that connects everything. A 501 (c) (3), Explore Bike Share has raised $2.2 million of the $4 million needed to launch with 600 bikes across 60 stations within the Interstate 240 Loop.

Current plans upon launch call for 27 stations in Downtown, 15 in Midtown, five each in Binghampton, Orange Mound and South Memphis, and three in Uptown.

“Bike Share systems work on density,” Carpenter said, noting they are in about 115 markets in the United States and only partly geared toward tourism. “We want to make sure we’re making strides with transportation options. And we’ll have a cash option for the unbanked, and a lot of programs related to education and health that can increase utilization.”

Carpenter also says they have “built a financial model very conservative on revenue” and he is confident once they have the funds to launch the program it will be sustainable long-term. That opens up the opportunity to go well beyond the initial footprint and eventually perhaps go to the outer reaches of the three-state Greenprint.

“So much of the data we’ve seen, not just in our region but in other regions, is that there is an economic impact (from greenways and bike paths),” Zeanah said. “There’s an uptick in home values. It attracts large-scale investment with business and jobs.”

THE FUTURE

Times change. Cities change.

“Denver was a cow town until they embraced the mountains,” Royer, of Outdoors Inc., said. “Use what you got.”

Memphis and the Mid-South seem to be doing just that.

“There’s a lot of momentum,” Andrews said. “And as people understand what’s possible, they’ll push for more.”

Carpenter agrees and believes the next major transformation – already in progress – will happen along the riverfront.

The momentum is perhaps also aided by aging baby boomers wishing to remain active. While Memphis isn’t Florida, it is a warmer option for retirees looking to migrate from the North. They just might be thrilled to have all this green space available for biking, hiking, running or walking; Big River Crossing, for example, will connect to about 70 miles of levee trail stretching from Downtown Memphis to Marianna, Ark.

“Downtown is kinda like being on vacation,” Carpenter said. “You have all these assets at your doorstep. You’ve got a river, walking paths, merchandise, retail, food and beverage. It’s a great place to be. There is more of out-of-town investment. The interest in the riverfront is at a fever pitch and is going to demand thoughtful responses. Status quo and maintenance won’t suffice. There is too high of a bar set.”

Memphis minds, in other words, have been forever changed.

“This city no longer accepts acceptable,” Carpenter said. “We’ve moved past generic. We’ve got a lot of style to keep up.”

Bike Share Attractive for Developers, Tenants

By Madeline Faber, Memphis Daily News

On both sides of the spectrum, real estate developers and tenants are attracted to bike share because proximity to the rental bikes makes areas attractive.

Developer Billy Orgel said he’s interested in securing a bike station to serve the four residential buildings, office users and 358-space parking garage at his planned Brewery District Downtown.

He sees having a bike-share station at his 280-unit multifamily complex as an advertised amenity, like having a fitness center.

“If you’re in New York or Chicago, the closer you live to a train line or subway line, you pay more rent because it’s a convenience,” Orgel said. “And bike share is an amenity. You don’t want the building two doors down to have it if you don’t have it.”

He said the Brewery District will be connected by a pedestrian-friendly network with benches and wide sidewalks. When bike-share stations hit the ground locally early next year, it will be a natural fit for the Brewery District and will help connect the South Downtown project to the greater urban core.

Those increased connections are what makes bike share attractive to commercial developers, said Doug Carpenter, principal of communications firm DCA.

Carpenter said that in some bike-share markets, developers will outright purchase bike share stations for commercial projects as opposed to waiting for a network expansion. Carpenter, whose firm is spearheading bike share’s growth in Memphis, said he is entertaining that possibility with local developers. In Memphis, it will cost about $65,000 to purchase a station and 10 bikes.

When Memphis’ first phase of bike share is up and running, there will be 600 rental bikes across 60 stations in Memphis. Most of the stations are near attractions, like parking garages, hotels, museums and cultural amenities. Naturally, everything around a bike-share station becomes an attraction as well.

“They are launching points and landing points,” Carpenter said. “It becomes pretty desirable because it’s an additive asset to be around bike shares. There’s a certain additional market it can bring you, especially when it comes to tourism in Memphis. I think the tourist’s range to spend money grows fairly significantly with bike share.”

Bike share also extends the range of walkability so that more people have access to retail and restaurants. By traveling on a bike, people are more likely to stop in stores and try out something new as opposed to in cars, where people travel isolated from the streetscape and must look for parking.

Adding bike share to undeveloped areas could make them more attractive to outside investment, Orgel said. With more people biking and walking, an area feels more active and safe. And by extending the range of travel, bike share can help neighborhoods redevelop without waiting for new bus routes.

“Where there’s infrastructure, bikes will go, but also where bikes go, infrastructure gets developed,” Carpenter said. “If they are traveling down roads it can mean bike lanes are added or retail moves into that area or grows because the traffic on that artery has grown.”

In a study cited by the Urban Land Institute, there is also a positive correlation between ease of biking and property values. The value of properties within a block of Indianapolis’ eight-mile biking and walking trail, for example, increased 148 percent between 2014 and when the trail opened in 2008.

Carpenter said bike share also helps bring in new supporters of active transportation. In the next evolution of local bike culture, commercial projects could sprout in well-biked areas.

Real estate development that’s oriented to bike infrastructure is already taking place in Memphis. The 18 buildings of the Parkside mixed-use development will sit on the edge of the Shelby Farms Greenline when construction is completed. And the Artesian Condos boast several recreation- friendly amenities in anticipation of the Main to Main Intermodal Connector Project, which turns the Harahan Bridge into a pedestrian crossing over the Mississippi River. The condo building has an interior, air-conditioned bike storage room and easy-access entry and exit gates to the trails.

Memphis Bike Share Program Offering Free Demos

All this week, Explore Bike Share in Memphis is giving cyclists a taste of what to expect when the program officially launches next spring.

If you've never heard of a bike share program before, this might be the best explanation out there.

"It's kind of like Redbox for videos, except for bikes," says Todd Richardson, a board member for Explore Bike Share.

Explore Bike Share will be a network of 60 stations around Memphis where you can rent bicycles on-demand. Free demo stations will be popping up at various spots in the city the rest of the week, including the Levitt Shell and FedExForum. These demos will be free. Once the program kicks off, all you need to rent a bike is a credit or debit card. Members will also have key fobs for instant access. One of the goals of the Explore Bike Share program will be easily getting your hands on a bike. Later this year, there is also going to be a smartphone app so you can check out bikes whenever you want.

Organizers say they are halfway to their fundraising goal of four million dollars, and riders who pledge their support now will get some extra perks when the program starts.

"It's essentially $15 a month to be a founding member," says Richardson. "That gets you unlimited one hour rides once the bike share program is up and running. You also get an exclusive card saying you're a founding member."

And with the growth of these programs exploding in other cities, there's no reason to think Explore Bike Share won't be a hit in the Bluff City.

"Memphis has got a lot to see and to do. I think with 600 bikes and 60 stations to start, I could see it hitting 100 in a year," says Jake Higdon, a demo coordinator for BCycle, the company installing the stations.

Below is a list of locations and times for the Explore Bike Share demo:

Thursday, July 28th

South Memphis Farmers Market - 9:00am to Noon

Levitt Shell - 6:00pm to 9:00pm

Friday, July 29th

FedExForum (Food Truck Friday) - 11:00am to 2:00pm

 

For more information on pledging your membership to Explore Bike Share, go to www.explorebikeshare.com.

The 9:01: Proposed bike share program on display, Grizzlies expectations and more

By Chris Herrington, Commercial Appeal

Bike sharing, an increasingly common urban amenity now found in Nashville and Chattanooga, among an estimated 600 or so other cities, takes another step this week toward a future Memphis launch.

The concept was studied by the city earlier this decade, but not pursued for financial reasons. Instead, a private group spurred by communications consultant Doug Carpenter, named Explore Bike Share, has taken the lead on bringing the practice to Memphis, and is introducing the concept to Memphis this week at a series of bike share demonstration stations around the city today, Thursday and Friday.

I took a spin on one of the bikes at a preview event last night in the Edge District. Bike share bikes are typically heavier and bulkier than ones you’d own yourself, and these, from vendor B-Cycle, were in line with those I’ve seen in other cities. This makes them a bit slower and safer than typical street bikes, something akin to a beach cruiser even though they are three-speed.

The “Explore” moniker is appropriate for what the bike share plan in Memphis (as in most cities) seems to want to accomplish: These bikes are more about urban/neighborhood exploration and short-distance commutes than lengthy greenline runs or spandex-clad cycling seriousness. And while they provide an alternative to local bikers who may not want to transport their own all the time, it seems like the most fruitful markets are visitors (particularly Downtown) and expanding the portion of bike users in Memphis beyond current bike owners.

At the preview event last night, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland lauded the initiative as a recruiting tool in a battery of urban amenities people are coming to expect.

“The mayor’s right. This will make us competitive with other cities. But it’s also the cool thing, the fun thing, the thing that my, our, the next generation wants to see in our community,” said Downtown Memphis Commission honcho Terence Patterson, who mentioned taking note of similar programs in other cities during recent travels. “It’s going to be great for tourists who want to bike from the Peabody to Sun Studios. And it’s also great for folks who don’t want to take their own bike to work. They want to take a bike and go in and out and commute.”

The DMC recently doubled an expected investment in Explore Bike Share and Patterson noted that they hoped to support the effort on an ongoing basis.

Explore Bike Share is a little more than halfway to its $4 million fundraising goal, with hopes to launch the program next year -- where it could find nice synergy with both the relocation of ServiceMaster to Downtown and the opening of the Harahan Bridge -- and this week’s demo is about fundraising in addition to getting Memphis more familiar with the concept.

At demo stations this week, Explore Bike Share is letting people test out the bikes and is also signing people up for “founding” memberships ($15 per month), offering a chance to “pay it forward” via $200 donations that would provide an annual membership to a “Memphian in need,” offering “adopt a bike” for $500 donations, where you can have a name, dedication or quote engraved on one of the bikes.

Bike Share Demo Locations:

Today:

11-2 p.m. Overton Square

4-7 p.m. Intersection of Union Avenue & Main Street

Thursday, July 28

9-1 p.m. South Memphis Farmers Market

6-9 p.m. Levitt Shell

Friday, July 29

11-2 p.m. FedEx Forum — Food Truck Friday

 

Demonstrations Raise Interest in Pending Bike Share Program

By Madeline Faber, Memphis Daily News

A demonstration bike share station set outside of High Cotton Brewery signaled what Memphis could expect early next year when 60 bike share stations are up and running.

The three B-Cycle bikes, developed by Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycle, were available for impromptu rides in the Edge District. At the event hosted by nonprofit Explore Bike Share, the public was invited to click through the station’s touch screen to sign up for a temporary membership, then swipe an identification card to release a bike from the station and take it for a spin.

“I could see this happening here,” said Anthony Siracusa, executive director of the Carpenter Street Community Bike Shop and founder of nonprofit Bike Walk Tennessee.

Siracusa said he had his doubts about bike share being able to work in Memphis when the for-rental bike program surged nationally about five years ago.

“We just don’t have the density that other big cities have, like Chicago or New York where this is really big,” he said, but Explore Bike Share’s layout eventually changed his mind.

Memphis’ program is likely to be successful, he said, because it builds capacity where Memphis lacks density. Explore Bike Share plans to place bike share stations in clusters around key areas of the city.

That means about 600 bikes across 27 stations Downtown, three stations in Uptown, five stations in Orange Mound, 15 stations in Midtown, five stations in Binghampton and five stations in South Memphis. The bikes are available for rent per-hour, per-day or per-month, and they’re meant to be used by tourists, Memphis residents who don’t own cars and everyone in between.

“We think it will provide access to people who don’t own automobiles, which is more than 50 percent of the people,” said Roshun Austin, executive director of The Works Inc. in South Memphis and board member with Explore Bike Share. “It will help them get outside of South Memphis and get to the places they need, like groceries, retail, financial institutions, primary health care. All the things we’ll be missing in the neighborhood they’ll be able to access it.”

For the past two years, Explore Bike Share has been developing the right station design, layout and funding structure to make a bike share program successful in Memphis. It is now closing in on its $4 million capital raise and has selected a vendor for the bike share stations in B-Cycle. Bike share seems like it’s virtually here, with the nonprofit already selling memberships to those who want founding member status.

The price for a founding member is no different than what a regular monthly membership will be. For $15, anyone can have unlimited monthly rides. They can also pledge $200 to pay-it-forward, or donate an annual membership to a Memphian in need. For those who want to make a mark on Memphis bike share, they can “adopt a bike” and have it engraved with a name or quote.

“This will make us competitive with other cities,” said Terence Patterson, president of the Downtown Memphis Commission, which donated $60,000 to support bike share. “But it’s also the cool thing. It’s the fun thing. It’s the thing the next generation wants to see in our community.”

The bike share demonstration stations will be set up around Memphis this week to drum up public support for an early 2017 launch. On Wednesday, the bikes were available in Overton Square in the morning and at the intersection of Union Avenue and Main Street from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. On Thursday, July 28, the bikes will be outside the South Memphis Farmers Market between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. That evening, the bikes will be at the Levitt Shell beginning at 6 p.m. On Friday, July 29, the FedExForum will host the bikes as part of a food truck round-up running from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Bike Share Demo Event at FedExForum on July 29

By Memphis Grizzlies, NBA

Explore Bike Share, a nonprofit motivated to install a comprehensive bike share system in Memphis, will bring a demonstration bike share station to FedExForum on Friday, July 29 from 11am-1pm.

Join us on the plaza of FedExForum to check out a demonstration bike share station from B-Cycle, Explore Bike Share's selected vendor. Take a bike for a spin, ask your questions, and show your support. The event will feature a live DJ, Grizzlies swag, and the following food trucks:

  • MEMPopS
  • Say Cheese
  • Sushi Jimmi
  • Stick Em Food Truck
  • Food Geek

B-Cycle, a leading bike share system manufacturer and Memphis’ selected vendor, will set up a station at FedExForum for residents, tourists and potential sponsors to experience the health, cultural, environmental and urban transportation benefits of bike share. The station will serve as a physical example of the rented on-demand bicycle network that will be implemented in Memphis once the $4 million initial capital is reached.

Demo visitors can enter-to win a FREE annual bike share membership by posting photographs on social media using #seemoreinmemphis. The announcement of the demonstration station serves as a catalyst of a founding membership campaign, which requests individual “founding” member pledges on explorebikeshare.com or on-site during the demo station pop-ups.

Monthly user memberships are $15/month. A “pay it forward” annual membership donates the transportation and health care benefits of bike share to a Memphian in need for $200/year. Individuals can even pledge to “adopt a bike,” which offers an engraved name or quote on a bike share bike.

The founding membership drive, announced through a newly released video on Explore Bike Share’s Facebook page, will run through August 3. Visit explorebikeshare.com to sign up and learn more.

 

Bike-Sharing Demos Set in Memphis This Week

By Wayne Risher, The Commercial Appeal

Explore Bike Share will demonstrate bike-sharing stations around Memphis Wednesday through Friday.

Pop-up events are scheduled for: Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Overton Square and 4-7 p.m. at Union and Main; Thursday, 9 a.m. to noon at South Memphis Farmers Market and 6-9 p.m. at Levitt Shell; and Friday, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., FedExForum, in conjunction with Food Truck Friday.

Explore Bike Share is raising $4 million for 60 stations and 600 bicycles spread across Downtown, Midtown, Binghamton, Orange Mound and South Memphis.

The nonprofit program will make bicycles available for short-term rentals on a membership or cash basis. Bicycles will be available for rental at $4 an hour during the demonstrations.

Memphis advertising agency DCA (Doug Carpenter & Associates) is spearheading the capital campaign and helping with startup.

Explore Bike Share has raised $2 million and aims to finish fund-raising in time to launch the program in 2017.

The bicycles and solar-powered stations will be furnished by B-Cycle, a wholly owned subsidiary of Wisconsin-based Trek Bicycle Corp.

B-Cycle's bikes are 3-speed models with baskets on the front handlebars, no exposed chains or gears and front and rear lights.

 

Bike Share Demos Happening This Week

By Bianca Phillips, Memphis Flyer

A nonprofit group planning to launch a bike-share program in Memphis will host bike demo stations in Midtown, South Memphis, and downtown this week. 

Explore Bike Share will be set up at Overton Square on Wednesday, July 27th from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and later that day, they'll be downtown near the intersection of Union and Main from 4 to 7 p.m. Bikes will be available for test rides, and those interested can learn about bike share's pay-and-ride process. Representatives from B-Cycle (the company providing the bikes) and Explore Bike Share will be on-hand answering questions. 

When the idea comes to full fruition, the bike-share program would place stations in neighborhoods all over the city, including lower-income areas where bicycle transportation may be more needed. Those who expect to use the program regularly can buy memberships for $15 a month, but bikes can also be rented by the day. There's also an annual "pay it forward" membership for $200 for those who'd like to donate a membership to a Memphian in need. 

Explore Bike Share will host additional demos on Thursday, July 28th at the South Memphis Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and the Levitt Shell from 6 to 9 p.m. And they'll be demoing at the FedExForum's Food Truck Friday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday, July 29th.

Those who stop by the demo stations are encouraged to post photos on social media using the hastag #seemoreinmemphis. Each day, from July 27th-29th, they'll select a winner to receive an annual bike share membership.

 

 

Explore Bike Share to Host Demo Week

By Meagan Nichols, Memphis Business Journal

Explore Bike Share is kicking things into high gear.

The group behind the movement to bring a bike share system to Memphis will hold demonstrations throughout the city Wednesday, July 27 through Friday, July 29.

“One of the things we have discovered in our exploration process of Bike Share is if people are not familiar with Bike Share, they haven’t used one or interacted with one, it is very hard to describe,” said Doug Carpenter of DCA who spearheaded the Memphis bike share initiative.

To help people better grasp the concept, a bike station equipped with B-Cycle 2.0 model bikes will be setup so people can see bike share firsthand.

“It is really a tangible way to engage with the bikes and see how they work,” Carpenter said.

Not only will the events function as demos, but organizers are hopeful it will help encourage people to become founding bike share members, which for $15 per month, allows individuals to have unlimited one-hour bike trips, receive a founding membership card and be recognized on the Explore Bike Share website.

Carpenter said it is “no credit card needed now” simply a commitment to be a founding member. In order to be considered a founding member interested parties must make the pledge by Aug. 3.

There are also options to “Pay-It-Forward” for $200 per year, people can donate bike share use to a Memphian in need or for $500 people can “Adopt A Bike” and have a name, dedication or quote put on the bike.

The demo week of events will start Tuesday, July 26 with a private reception for Explore Bike Share stakeholders. Wednesday, July 26 the public bike demonstrations kickoff at Overton Square from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and then head to the intersection of Union Avenue and Main Street from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, July 28 things begin at the South Memphis Farmers Market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and head east to the Levitt Shell from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. Finally, demonstrations wrap up Friday, July 29 outside the FedEx Forum from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. as part of Food Truck Friday.

“We are in different parts of town, different sorts of environments, in places where we would ultimately have the bike stations,” Carpenter said.

A committee to look at the feasibility of a bike share program was launched in June 2015 and the Request For Proposals was put out in September 2015. Fast forward to today and Explore Bike Share is about halfway to its $4 million funding goal and plans to get a system up and running – or cycling – in 2017.

“[We] have a lot of discussions going on in a lot of different areas, and are just hyper focused on that capital raise,” Carpenter said.