Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Bike Sharing

Midwestern Cities Race to Adopt, and Grow, Bike-Share

Pittsburgh was the newest city to announce its bike-share plans this week, when it confirmed the city would add a 500-bike system by the spring of next year.

Kansas City was one of the first cities in the Midwest to launch a bike sharing system when it did so last summer. But soon it will have plenty of company. Image: ##http://mobikefed.org/2012/12/kansas-citys-b-cycle-bike-sharing-system-wraps-successful-first-year## Missouri Bicycle Federation##

But nearby Columbus, Ohio, will beat them to the punch. Ohio's capital city is planning to add 300 bikes this summer. Meanwhile, Indianapolis' plan was to roll out its system next month.

The truth is you would be hard-pressed to find a large Midwestern city that hasn't taken formal steps toward adding a bike-share system.

Both Cleveland and Detroit are studying bike-share. Cincinnati completed a bike-share study late last year, and is now seeking proposals from contractors. Milwaukee is assembling money for a system. Chicago hopes to add 3,000 bikes this spring.

And of course there's the grandaddy of them all: Minneapolis' Nice Ride. Launched in 2010, this system currently boasts more than 1,200 bikes. Late last year, the system surpassed half a million trips.

Midwestern cities have been inspired by some of the more spectacular examples on the coasts, according to Eric Rogers, executive director of BikeWalkKC, the nonprofit organization that manages Kansas City's bike-share system. Kansas City was a little ahead of the pack when it launched Kansas City B-Cycle, with 200 bikes at 12 stations, last summer.

"The last few years a lot of cities, especially in the Midwest, have seen good examples from places like Chicago and Portland and New York and D.C. of a lot of innovative facilities that are out there: cycle tracks, bike boxes, bike-sharing," he said. "There's so much more knowledge out there now that it's easier to develop a solution and pursue it."

Midwestern metros have also been lured by the availability of new technology and the assistance of companies like B-Cycle and Alta Bikes that make installing these systems relatively easy and affordable. But these new additions to the bike-share family have taken a markedly different approach than some large coastal cities.

Midwestern systems tend to be smaller and more conservative than those in major metros outside the region.

Minneapolis' Nice Ride was hte Midwest's pioneering system, but this region adpoting bike sharing quickly. Image: ##http://blogs.citypages.com/blotter/2012/08/nice_ride_hits_500000th_trip.php## City Pages##

"A lot of the Midwest cities started kind of small, maybe with 10 or 12 stations, and they're growing more organically over time," Rogers said. "It seems like a lot of the larger coastal cities have taken more of a big-bang approach."

Washington, D.C.'s first SmartBike system failed precisely because of its small size. The city decided that a bike-share system needed to be big enough to be useful right from the get-go, and the phenomenal success of Capital Bikeshare has proven that they were on to something.

Meanwhile, Kansas City's start-small approach seems to be going as planned. BikeWalkKC got some additional federal air quality money to expand its system with eight stations this year, which will bring the citywide total to 20.

Rogers says operating a successful system in the Midwest comes with its own challenges. Midwestern cities typically aren't as densely populated as some larger coastal metros. They may also lack transit that facilitates bicycling, and especially bike-sharing.

"There's some pretty clear data that shows there's more [bike-share] usage in a denser city," he said.

Kansas City was surprised, for example, to see far more leisure-time trips than commuting trips. Evenings, lunchtimes and weekends are the most popular times for bike rentals there. Special downtown events also lead to a spike in usage. The organization has tailored its marketing toward this crowd, Rogers said.

One big question that remains is whether Midwestern systems will ever be financially self-supporting, as Washington D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare is becoming. The other question is whether that really matters.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Tuesday’s Headlines Are Running Hard

More political news: Today's top stories delve into Kamala Harris' record on climate change and Republicans' plans for the Trump administration if he returns to power.

July 23, 2024

State DOTs Could Fuel a Resurgence in Intercity Bus Travel

Private equity firms are killing off intercity bus companies. Will public agencies fill in the gaps?

July 23, 2024

GOP’s ‘Project 2025’ is ‘Based on a Lot of ignorance’

What does Transportation for America's Beth Osborne think of the transportation portion of the Heritage Foundation's playbook for a Trump presidency?

July 23, 2024

What a Surprise! Hochul’s Congestion Pricing Pause Helps Rich Suburban Drivers

Gov. Hochul's "little guys" certainly have big wallets. Meanwhile, the rest of us suffer with declining subway service and buses that are slower than walking. Thanks, Kathy.

July 22, 2024

Philadelphia Demands More Than ‘Flex-Post’ Protected Bike Lanes After Motorist Kills Cyclist

Pediatric oncologist Barbara Friedes was struck while biking on a "protected" path. Now, advocates are arguing that flex posts should be replaced with something far better.

July 22, 2024
See all posts