“It’s the oddest thing,” said Anton Mack, executive director of Explore Bike Share
“Despite the pandemic, our ridership is up.”
Mack took the helm of the city’s only nonprofit bike-sharing organization in 2020. He said the rise in ridership can be attributed to COVID precautions, social media communications, and the addition of new pedal-assist eBikes.
“The new fleet of eBikes is our ongoing new story,” said Mack. “We are sprucing things up and we’ve only rolled out about half of the fleet.”
New eBike docking stations throughout the Memphis area convert solar energy into power for each bike. Pushing the power button on the handlebar screen will give the rider power beyond their strength to pedal that extra mile or two.
Additionally, the eBikes offer easy rider access via mobile app or RFID card. Mack said these options provide better theft deterrents, considering the thousands of dollars they have spent in the past repairing vandalism.
Location is another reason for higher ridership, Mack said. EBS secured more business locations this year, such as the Memphis Health Department, the FedEx Forum, and Central Station Hotel. They hope having bike stations near workplaces will encourage employees to improve their health by riding during their lunch breaks.
“Within five minutes of the installation at the Central Station Hotel, people were checking out bikes to ride,” Mack said. “The addition of an EBS station in Shelby Farms has also added to the ridership numbers.”
EBS is still working on a few of their goals for 2021, including adding more stations in certain areas of the city.
“We haven’t been able to solicit enough funding to add stations in the Binghampton area,” said Mack. “We have gotten seed money, but we are still in need of sponsorships.”
Businesses that want to support EBS
can become station sponsors, or they can sponsor a weekend of free rides for Memphians. Mack says sponsorship will allow EBS to add stations in Binghampton and elsewhere. Sponsor funding will also help them add programs, like teaching youth how to repair bikes.
Breaking Barriers is bridging the gap
While many EBS stations are thriving, some no longer contain bikes due to low usage, like the ones at the South Memphis Market and the corner of McLemore and Bellevue.
Unsure whether it was the cost of the rental or lack of a credit card to use, Mack and EBS came up with an alternative solution. The Breaking Barriers program donates the traditional bikes that were pulled to make way for the eBikes.
“We noticed that the vandalism to the stations was occurring during after school hours and that the students simply wanted to ride them,” Mack said.
By donating the retired bikes to organizations like Knowledge Quest, The Works, and Westwood-Indian Hills and Neighboring Developments (WIND) CDC, EBS is giving communities with previously low ridership the means to pedal forward.
“Having access to the donated bikes will help the community meet one of its sustainability goals of embracing a healthier lifestyle,” said Dedra Macklin, founder and CEO of WIND, CDC.
“We plan to teach the students how to ride and bicycle safety,” said Macklin. “Additionally, those 16 and older will bike with us to T.O. Fuller Park.”
Riding It Out
In the spring of 2021, Mack and the EBS team began the Let’s Ride This Out
membership campaign. The kickoff event provided free rides to Memphians looking to try out a safe way to be active.
“Many people who hadn’t been on a bike in 20-30 years were out riding,” said Mack.
He added that cycling is a cost-effective transportation that is also environmentally safe because bikes give off no emissions. EBS is continuing to encourage people to sign up for eBike memberships so they can exercise and travel safely within the city.