With major financial support in place, Detroit’s bike share program pedals into the fast lane

City Terrain Midwest Transportation Urbanism
Philly Indego Bikeshare

Philadelphia’s IndeGo bike share program provides a model on which to base new start up programs in cities like Detroit. ( Tyree303/Wikimedia Commons)

Detroit will soon be joining the over 70 other U.S. cities with bike share programs. The 350-bike, 35-station system is on track to open in 2016, with recent monetary support from public and private sources.

By Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon, United States (Chicago Divvy Bike Sharing (Clinton/Madison)) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Similarly to Chiicago Divvy bike share program, Detroit’s will be partially funded by a health care system, The Henry Ford Health System/HAP, hoping to encourage active lifestyles in the city. (Tony Webster/Wikimedia Commons)

The Henry Ford Health System/Health Alliance Plan has agreed to three years of support with an undisclosed amount to help with the estimated $1 million annual operating cost. An additional $1 million has been awarded to the program by the Federal Highway Administration’s Transportation Alternative Program Awards, offsetting a large portion of the $2 million startup costs.

Despite its moniker as the Motor City, Detroit has had the fastest-growing bike ridership in the country over the last 15 years. Compiling data from the American Community Survey, the American League of Bicyclists found that Detroit’s bike ridership has grown by 403 percent since the year 2000.

At the same time another study coordinated by Wayne State University investigated the feasibility of a bike share program in Detroit. That study, conducted in 2013, also presented an optimistic outlook on a bike share program, noting, “In particular [a bike share program] offers a means to strengthen connections between neighborhoods, complement existing and future transit services, serve as an amenity to both residents and visitors, and support the revitalization of Detroit.”

That same study outlined a possible phased implementation as well as economic/administrative model for the program. It is from these suggestions that the city has settled on the 35 station initial launch, as well as its public/private funding of the system. The next steps will be to find a vendor and operator, which the report suggests should be a non-profit organization specifically set up for the program. Luckily for Detroit, there are now many precedents to follow in launching a bike share system. Cities like Philadelphia are providing models on which to base successful programs in cities historically dominated by car travel.

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