Opinion » The Rant

Let’s Ride It Out: Explore Bike Share is Here for the Long Run

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As I grow accustomed to the uncertainty of our current situation, I recognize and applaud the examples of long-term continuity in our culture: the establishments that withstand the test of time. The efforts that surpass a trend. The endurance of a business or a business owner or a brand.

Those that come to mind are exemplary for many reasons, but what they all have in common is their choice of a path toward sustainable, long-term success. I can't help but believe that my daily work in the biking world fits this definition, too.

While I can't take credit for work before 2020, Explore Bike Share and the greater city of Memphis' approach to biking is geared for the long game, and I'm here to keep pedaling us forward.

Explore Bike Share
  • Explore Bike Share

Ten years ago, Bicycling Magazine named Memphis one of the worst cities for biking in the country. The city of Memphis and visionaries behind projects such as the Shelby Farms Greenline sought to shift this reputation fairly expeditiously and, within two years, added over 70 miles of bike lanes. The title change followed suit, and Memphis was named the "most improved city for cycling" in Bicycling two years later.

Today, Memphis offers over 300 on- and off-road miles of bike infrastructure, from the Big River Trail to the Wolf River Greenway, from Hampline to the Greenline. Five years ago, a vision for affordable, available, accessible bike sharing in Memphis was cast, and a community-driven approach was explored in philosophy and practice. Today, Explore Bike Share's approach remains recognized on the national stage for its unique brand and 501(c)3 revenue model built on the goodwill and adoption of our mission by members, sponsors and donors.

Two years ago, a system was launched as hundreds of Memphians voluntarily rolled out 600 bikes into stations citywide. One week following, scooters arrived, and shared mobility became a community-wide showcase and arguably competitive landscape. Today, though some scooter companies are retiring their fleets, our bikes are weathering the seasons.

Two months ago, a pandemic swept our world and our community. Safer at Home strategies stopped gatherings, travel, and business traffic. But while some parks and streets are closed to vehicular traffic in order to safeguard social distancing, bikes remain the tool to traverse our city safely. We've extended another 30 days of free Explore Bike Share rides through May 19th as a healthy response to COVID-19.

While our system has always been affordable, we have made it free since March 20th. The first month of our "Let's Ride This Out" campaign welcomed 500 unique first-time riders who have explored bike share for an errand or exercise. I believe the "Let's Ride This Out" response reflects a deep trust by our riders, by our sponsors and donors, by our members, and by our staff. While cars are parked and streets are clearer, now's the time to explore firsthand those hundreds of bike paths paved for us. As we ride to fuel our mental health and physical well-being, we can especially understand what it means to see through trends and the temporary. Explore Bike Share is here and here to stay. Let's keep riding this out.

Anton Mack is executive director of Explore Bike Share.

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