More Public Funding Comes to Explore Bike Share

By Madeline Faber, Memphis Daily News

The Center City Development Corp. doubled down on its commitment to launching a bike share program at its July 20 meeting.

Nonprofit Explore Bike Share came to the Downtown Memphis Commission’s affiliate board seeking a $30,000 grant to contribute to the capital campaign. The group walked away with a $60,000 grant.

“It’s really powerful that it’s going to connect us with the rest of the city,” said Downtown Memphis Commission president Terence Patterson. “That being said, most of the bikes are going to be Downtown.”

Explore Bike Share, a brainchild of Downtown-based marketing and consulting firm DCA, has been working for a couple of years to develop a network of for-rent bikes that would benefit tourists, casual riders and those dependent on public transportation.

The bike share stations will be placed at strategic places around the city. While exact locations have not yet been mapped, Explore Bike Share plans on 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.

Each station will have a set of bikes that can be rented hourly or on a monthly membership basis. When a patron is finished riding the bike, he or she will deposit it at the destination. Costs haven’t been determined, but will be nominal.

Explore Bike Share estimates Memphis will see 1,200 members and 50,000 walk-up users each year, with each bike used 1.5 times daily.

“This city is built on car traffic and people have no sense of how close we actually are to each other,” said DCA principal Doug Carpenter, pointing out that a bike ride from the Stax Museum of American Soul Music to Sun Studio clocks in at around 15 minutes.

There are many other opportunities for branded routes to change a tourist’s experience of Downtown, said Leslie Gower, vice president of marketing for the DMC.

Initial capital and system operations to launch a bike share program in Memphis come in at $4 million. Explore Bike Share has secured a $2 million matching grant, and the CCDC’s commitment brings those funds $60,000 closer to reality.

At the meeting, CCDC board members expressed concerns about a bike share program’s safety.

Carpenter said that the operational budget includes education courses about how to ride a bike and how to share the road with motorists. To check out a bike, people will have to sign a liability waiver and helmets will not be provided. Also, the bikes are nearly impossible to steal. Their design renders dismantling for scrap parts difficult, and people have to register their contact information to check out a bike. If a bike is found unreturned, it can be traced back to the previous patron.

“Safety of the bikes, or theft of the bikes, is almost nonexistent throughout all the country’s systems,” Carpenter added.

Next week, Explore Bike Share will host a bike station demonstration across the city. A prototype created by leading bike share manufacturer B-Cycle will be on display for people to test.