COMMERCIAL APPEAL | JARED BOYD
After a summer-long series of community meetings to gauge local interest, Explore Bike Share is urging more public response to its idea that could lead to a bike sharing program in Memphis.
In June and July, the group, led by Doug Carpenter & Associates, hosted events in Orange Mound, South Memphis, Binghamton, Uptown, Downtown, the University of Memphis District, Christian Brothers University, Midtown and Cooper-Young.
“These community input sessions were less a PowerPoint, with us standing in front of a group of people in a line of chairs, (and more of) really having conversations and discussions with folks about what bike share is, what it would mean for them, how it would apply to improving transportation and recreation and general culture in Memphis,” project manager Sara Studdard said.
About 100 people came out during these nine sessions.
The group also administered an online survey during the summer, and just around 150 people have completed it to date.
Meanwhile, Studdard traveled to other markets that have bike sharing to gather insight on how cities interact to the infrastructure.
“One of the things we wanted to make sure that we did was, if we were going to make a bike share here, it was going to be for Memphis and not off-the-shelf,” said Carpenter.
Explore Bike Share began researching the feasibility of a bike share program in Memphis in June. The group plans to complete a report on the program’s viability.
Carpenter said he didn’t originally think he’d be the kind of person to which the project would appeal.
“As much as I, as an individual, am an advocate for what this could mean for the city, I really thought personally that I would not be a major user. But through the process I realized, that’s just not true,” Carpenter said from his office on South Main.
As Carpenter and his team got deeper into the process of examining just what a short-term public bicycle rental system might look like in Memphis, he started envisioning ways his life could become easier.
“I have to go to City Hall. The last thing I want to do is park and walk,” Carpenter said. “If there’s a station outside, I can get a bike and bike for, I mean, how long would it take me?”
“Five minutes at the most,” Studdard said.
“We have tons of people that anecdotally are thanking us for doing it, saying ‘That’s great!’ but they are not registered anywhere,” Carpenter said. “So, they didn’t take the survey and didn’t go to a community meeting, they just accept it as, ‘Hey, this is going to be a great advancement. Let me know when it gets here.’”
“Starting (this) week, we are going to be more deliberate about asking people, ‘Do you want bike share or not?’”
Carpenter said his group will not pursue city funding, but will look to request some federal and private interest.