Memphis welcomes 600-bike fleet for Explore Bike Share program
- Community members in Memphis, TN "unboxed" a fleet of 600 bikes this week in preparation for Explore Bike Share's spring launch of the city's first bike-share program.
- Explore Bike Share — a local 501(c)(3) organization developed to explore the possibilities for shared mobility in Memphis — "happened upon" a city-funded feasibility study in 2015 that showed Memphis could support a system of 600 bikes and 60 stations, according to community engagement and marketing director Sara Studdard. The group then spent years running community listening sessions and designing the program to be equitable and accessible for all Memphis residents.
- Riders will soon be able to access the bike-share program in a number of ways: through a BCycle Dash mobile app, through a touch-screen on the bike, or through an RFID card that can be paid for with credit or cash.
Though the idea to bring a bike-share program to the city was sparked more than two years ago, the city-funded feasibility study "sat on the shelf" because Memphis wasn't in the position to fund the initiative. The feasibility study was also faulty in some ways, said Studdard, who noted it only focused on the downtown core and that area's population of moderate- to high- income white people.
"Memphis is a majority African-American city that is full of culture and vibrancy, but also struggles with transportation and income and health disparities. We knew that if bike-share were to come to Memphis and work in Memphis, that it needed to really be authentically of Memphis and that included reaching some of our really great historical neighborhoods that have also been traditionally underserved," Studdard told Smart Cities Dive.
Through the community listening sessions, Explore Bike Share determined where the most interest is for the 60 stations to be installed, ensuring residents across the city will have the opportunity to utilize the program. By taking its time to research and develop an inclusive bike-share program, Explore Bike Share will likely position itself as a successful organization from the get-go and become a model for other cities hoping to do the same.
And the opportunity for growth is already a reality for Explore Bike Share. Studdard explained the organization secured a federal grant through the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) to fund an expansion in 2019 and bring an additional 300 bikes and 30 stations to the program.
When asked about the possibility of bringing a dockless option to Memphis, Studdard said the city's current mobile infrastructure and bike culture is better suited for a station based system, though BCycle Dash presents the opportunity to dock bikes outside of the station. However, considering current obstacles facing dockless bike programs in other cites, starting with a station-based system is likely the right call.
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