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.