Guest Post: Unlocking Tourism Potential with Bike Sharing

The following guest post was written by Liz Treutel, Policy Associate at the Michigan Environmental Council (a Trans4M member).

Bike share programs are popping up in cities all over the country and while they are often touted as a great transportation option for residents, they can also be a fabulous amenity for area visitors. Biking provides a unique perspective from which to see a city and is a flexible, low-cost and active option to get around during a vacation.

The highly anticipated launch of Ann Arbor’s ArborBike program later this summer, along with the recent introduction of the Capital Community Bike Share in Lansing, represents Michigan’s entrance into the nationwide bike share trend. A quick look at other bike share programs’ success gives us a peek at the potential for bike sharing in Michigan.

One great example is Nice Ride, a Minneapolis-based bike sharing program that focuses on providing active, healthy options for residents and visitors in the urban core. The program owes its popularity in part to the robust bike infrastructure of the Twin Cities, the revitalization of the city’s core and its non-profit, “public-spirited philosophy.” The program launched in 2010 with 700 bikes and a $420,000 operating budget and has now grown to 1,500 bikes and an operating budget of $1 million.

Bike share station in Minneapolis Minnesota.

Bike share station in Minneapolis Minnesota.

This year, the organization expanded into Lakeside Bemidji, a small community about 200 miles north of The Twin Cities and a popular summer destination, aiming to address what they call “pent-up demand” in the summer tourism industry.

Biking is a leisurely way to enjoy the lakeside Minnesota community of  Bemidji. Photo used with permission from NiceRide Minnesota.

Biking is a leisurely way to enjoy the lakeside Minnesota community of Bemidji.
Photo used with permission from NiceRide Minnesota.

Nice Ride “tried to identify those places that were already, or could be transformed into, bike places – places where you could come for a long weekend and not touch a car,” said Anthony Desnick, the organization’s director of Great Minnesota strategies, in a recent City Lab article. The group aimed to pinpoint Minnesota communities that are summer hot-spots and had walkable downtowns, access to trails and other accessible and attractive amenities.

A recent study from Berkeley researchers Elliot Martin and Susan Shaheen, which focused on the Nice Ride program and a bike share program in Washington D.C., found that—depending on the location—bike sharing either replaces trips or creates new connections for daily commuters in the city, and can extend the same benefits to visitors.

Sounds like a no brainer, right? That’s because it is. However, this early research shows how bike sharing can impact travel patterns in different kinds of communities. For Michigan, the success of Nice Ride, its expansion into Bemidji and the research from Berkeley creates a strong argument for connecting bike share to our thriving tourist industry.

ArborBike will give us our first look at how visitors might use bikes here in Michigan. The program was developed with all users in mind, including visitors, said Kevin Mulder, bike share program associate at the Clean Energy Coalition (CEC).

“The stations are placed near popular destinations, and the membership model provides for short-term or long-term access,” Mulder said. “We believe bike share is the ideal form of transport in the downtown and campus areas for tourists as well as permanent residents.”

Whether it means convincing more visitors to park their cars during their stays in Michigan’s many bicycle-friendly summer destinations or tempting Chicagoans to take the Amtrak to visit Grand Rapids because they can get around without a car, the bike share industry has plenty of untapped potential in Pure Michigan.

Header photo used with permission from NiceRide Minnesota


One Comment on “Guest Post: Unlocking Tourism Potential with Bike Sharing

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