There are more than 100 miles of bike lanes zig-zagging across the city, but they won't do you much good without a bicycle.
Doug Carpenter & Associates is hoping to get bikes into the hands of more Memphians with a massive bicycle-sharing program that would place rentable bikes across the city.
The firm began looking into the idea of a Memphis bike-share program in June with a series of community meetings. Doug Carpenter, who heads up the ad firm, said the meetings were widely attended, and they got "tremendous feedback" on the in's and out's of how bike-share should work in Memphis.
They're now launching a 30-day campaign to better gauge community support for bike-share.
"We're asking people to join us, so we can create a list of people interested in bike-share beyond just those who came out to the community input meetings," Carpenter said. "We're working under a presumption that there's a silent group of people interested in bike-share. We need them to express that online."
Carpenter is asking anyone who supports the idea of bike-share to submit their names and email addresses on ExploreBikeShare.com. The Explore Bike Share campaign street team will also be at community events over the next month, signing up supporters in person.
The bike-share program would place about 60 stations holding a combined total of 600 bikes in neighborhoods all over the city, including lower-income areas where bicycle transportation may be more needed. Those who expect to use the program regularly can buy memberships, but bikes can also be rented by the day.
The cost has not yet been set, but Carpenter says they're looking at ways to subsidize bike rentals for those who cannot afford it.
"We can partner with community centers, the housing authority, or [partner with the Church Health Center to] write prescriptions for bike-share memberships," said Sara Studdard, project manager of Explore Bike Share.
Carpenter believes bike-share will not only appeal to tourists and those in lower-income areas but also to devoted cyclists who already have their own bikes.
"We have found, from studying other markets, that even bikers who bike to commute find that, once they get to where they're going and store their bike in a locker, it's more of a pain to get that bike back out than it is to use bike-share," Carpenter said. "This will not replace anyone's Saturday long ride, but the bike-share bikes are more readily available. And you don't have to worry about storage or fixing a flat."
Checking out a bike would come with a time limit, although Carpenter says that limit hasn't been set yet — maybe 45 minutes or an hour. The rider would check out the bike, and, although it could be ridden beyond that time limit, they would have to find another bike station and check the bike in before taking it out again.
"You can ride the bike as much as you want in a 24-hour period but at, say, 45-minute increments," Carpenter said. "I could get a bike at the Peabody [Hotel] and ride to the Civil Rights Museum and plug it in. And then I could take another bike from the Civil Rights Museum to Central Station."
The cruiser-style bikes would be equipped with GPS, so Carpenter says theft isn't a concern. And the GPS will allow staff to restock bikes as stations get low.
"Because it's so trackable, there will be an app. You can look on the app and see how many bikes are where and how many slots [are available at the bike station]," Carpenter said.
Explore Bike Share currently has a request for proposals out to companies that manufacture equipment and bikes for bike-share programs. Carpenter said the program will be funded through private funds and federal grants with no burden on the city budget.