MEMPHIS BUSINESS JOURNAL | MEAGAN NICHOLS
Earlier this month, a group formed to determine the viability and desirability of a bike share program in Memphis.
The Explore Bike Share committee, chaired by Doug Carpenter of Doug Carpenter & Associates LLC has already held six public meetings to answer questions and listen to feedback from citizens regarding bike share. Three meetings remain.
Unless you have seen similar programs in other cities, you might wonder what bike share even is. To provide clarity on the topic, the Memphis Business Journalrecently asked Carpenter to answer a series of questions to help people better understand how it would work and what long-term effects it might have on Memphis.
Carpenter’s answers are below.
Memphis Business Journal: What is bike share?
Doug Carpenter: Bike share offers a way to connect our people and places in a new way. Affordable access to bikes can literally open up new paths between neighborhoods and their shopping districts, schools, places of business, and cultural assets. As a mode of transit, cycling is safer and healthier than traveling by car and affords more independence than public transit.
MBJ: How does a bike share system work?
DC: A typical citywide bike share system consists of on-demand bicycles available for rental from a network of stations. Users can pay per ride or may hold “all-you-can-ride” memberships of varying lengths. These can be purchased online, on-site via credit card or at partner locations that process cash payments. The bicycles themselves are designed to be safe for riders of various abilities, adaptable to a range of street conditions, and easy to service.
MBJ: What are bike share’s long-term effects?
DC: A bike share program seems to be a project that can truly advance our city on multiple fronts: transportation, tourism, health, environment, and culture. We believe that bike share can become a tool for expanding economic equity in our city. With the right kind of planning and investment now, we can understand how to make its abundant benefits available to a large part of our community, regardless of their socio-economic status. Specifically, bike share can affect:
Economy: Bike share would provide additional options for tourists and residents to affordably and quickly get from one part of town to another for work, school, shopping, dining, attending a concert or Grizzlies game, or simply exploring a new neighborhood. Reducing car ownership – which costs approximately $8,000 per year – also significantly reduces economic burdens on families.
Health: Memphis is routinely sited by national press as one of the least healthy cities in America. This is, not surprisingly, due to the way in which our city is planned. We are a car culture; as a result, the number of miles from A to B is virtually unknown. Epidemics of high obesity, heart disease and over-reliance on cars as our primary mode of transit are interrelated, as Memphians simply do not get enough exercise throughout their days. Bicycling has numerous cardiopulmonary and strength benefits, which improve personal fitness and reduce public health costs in the long run.
Environment: Reducing our reliance on cars not only saves money, it clears the air. In 2011, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that each car in America produces more than 10,000 pounds of carbon emissions. Memphis’ sprawling development patterns and lower density make vehicle travel an overwhelming necessity for many, adding extra urgency to our need to stimulate neighborhood-level economic growth by providing viable new transit options. Encouraging cycling through bike share reduces the overall number of cars on our streets and highways. Bike share would reduce carbon emission, improve traffic conditions for everyone, and lessen costly wear-and-tear on our infrastructure.
Culture: Talent attraction & retention are paramount to efforts to grow Memphis on all fronts. One of the most compelling assets that Memphis has is its unique culture. By weaving together various communities with bike share accessibility, we could share our culture more readily and naturally.
MBJ: How would bike share work in Memphis?
DC: A network of safe, affordable, and accessible bicycles may be able to unlock new opportunities in neighborhoods across the city. The benefits of bicycling are wide reaching, from sharing culture to improving health. The challenge before us is expanding these benefits in a way that is truly equitable and enjoyed by more Memphians. Many Memphians who may not own cars or are otherwise unable to drive are in serious need of more and better transit options – but are seeing fewer of them. This trend impairs the ability to get to and from schools or workplaces, and hinders access to government services or routine shopping destinations. A network of safe, low-maintenance, affordable, and accessible bicycles may be able to fill some of these service gaps, unlocking new quality-of-life improvements in neighborhoods across the city. Strategically integrating bike share into our larger transit system and regional “green print” of bike lanes and trails ensures that it will be an efficient, safe, and useful option for residents and visitors alike, producing wide-reaching benefits to our economy, public health, environment, and culture.
MBJ: Why did you decide to spearhead this initiative?
DC: Often, projects with this type of community-wide impact can be perceived as if created in a vacuum and later presented to the greater public. We created Explore Bike Share with the intention to proactively solicit input from Memphis now. If we do create a bike share program in Memphis, it will be one built by the users and for the users. The sense of ownership can then be authentic and intentional.
MBJ: What have you discovered from Explore Bike Share?
DC: The community input sessions have gone well, and our findings have been profound. We have discovered there is little knowledge of exactly what we mean by a bike share system. Once we have shared examples of bikes, stations and other markets, the response is overwhelming positive. The sessions have discussed bike share in contexts ranging from a mode of transportation to a source of entertainment. We have also discovered that we are connected to each other by just a few miles in Memphis—Stax Museum is just two miles and a 10-minute bike ride from Sun Studio. Overton Square is a six-minute bike ride (1.2 miles) to Cooper-Young. Earnestine and Hazel’s is only five minutes by bike from the FedExForum. That soul burger just got more delicious! Other commutes to consider: Downtown to Kroger at Poplar/Cleveland intersection 2.5 miles 15 minutes by bike; Downtown to Mud Island 1.7 miles 12 minutes by bike; Orange Mound Community Center to Cooper-Young Farmers’ Market 1.5 miles 9 minutes by bike.
MBJ: What can we expect in the future?
DC: We hope to create a higher profile that will gauge the market more broadly related to desire for membership, corporate sponsorship, and other forms of involvement. We want to ensure anyone and everyone can be involved in the discovery process. Findings from our exploration will be presented by end of summer. In the meantime, one can fill out an online survey here.