One of the hottest topics around town these days is Red Bike. Everyone seems to want a Red Bike station in their community or on their block. The development of this urban bike-sharing project was started by the Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber’s Leadership Cincinnati program in 2011 and as a result, Cincy Bike Share, Inc. was formed. That group hired Jason Barron in December 2013 and Red Bike was launched in September 2014.
Barron, executive director of Red Bike, spoke with us about what it takes to get a Red Bike station in your town, and his explanation was that every location is different. “It isn’t as simple as I want it and I have the money,” Barron asserts. “The station also has to allow for the efficient operation of the system. They need to allow for service of the station and to be able to service the bikes, stations and members or users.”
Red Bike conducts feasibility studies in determining new station points. It looks for cities that are densely populated and works out from there. For example, Red Bike started in downtown Cincinnati before expanding to Over-The-Rhine and Pendleton. Next, it added stations by the University of Cincinnati and the hospitals in Clifton. Red Bike is now considering Northern Kentucky locations, including Covington, Newport, and Bellevue.
When we inquired about Dayton, Barron said he felt that the population and urban traffic patterns don’t yet warrant a station. Conversely, Bellevue has had a solid Main Street business district in place for many years — people know about it and they frequent the businesses there. Today, it may seem like a stretch for Red Bike to be in Bellevue, but its proximity to downtown Cincinnati and Newport might make it a decent match in the near-future.
Cities that connect are best for this program to work. It wouldn’t work if there were a Red Bike in Cincinnati, and not one in Clifton, but one in Hyde Park. The distances between stations need to be close enough for a reasonable bike ride. “Where we place the stations is a little bit of science and a whole lot of art,” Barron says.
Besides the science and art though, money is also a concern. It is estimated that each station costs about $50,000.00 to obtain. Red Bike doesn’t directly cover this cost; it is, after all, a non-profit organization. After a particular town or area has been selected as an appropriate site, it must raise public awareness and find monetary support as it waits in the queue for the production of the station. Red Bike, however, has successfully garnered financial support from the likes of Cincinnati City Council. Additionally, it has found favor with local public bus services TANK and Cincinnati Metro. These companies have been supportive partners of Red Bike, since riding a bus and a bike are not mutually exclusive of one another. Barron said, “You can take a bus for part of your journey and then get off at a Red Bike station and ride a bike the rest of your trip.”
Ultimately, Red Bike’s goal is to run a reliable public transportation service, while adding fun, connectivity, and energy and to urban areas. Even the recent cold stretch hasn’t diminished the success of the recent launch: “Weather has affected us less than we thought,” according to Barron. With over 17,000 rides since its launch in September, Red Bike’s effects on the environment could be substantial, too. How many cars does that take off the road? How much less gas is consumed? How much has that alleviated traffic congestion in and around Cincinnati? As Red Bike grows and more stations are added throughout Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky, the positive societal and environmental impacts are sure to be felt.
Red Bike currently has 30 stations in Cincinnati, and it hopes to add 10-15 in Northern Kentucky within the next year. Annual Red Bike memberships cost $80.00, while daily passes are $8.00 each. Please see www.CincyRedBike.org for usage rules and details.