The city of Fort Wayne is laying out the route for a bike share pilot program that would encourage people to rethink how they explore and navigate the Summit City.
This pilot program will invite various companies to set up their bike (or electric scooter) share program in the city for a trial period of 18 months, or two “riding seasons” as described by Dan Baisden from the community development department. If the program passes muster and is enjoyed by the public, there is a possibility of more long-term contracts.
“The whole goal of the pilot program is to measure which (device) is being used more, in which part they’re being used and the travel times or trip amounts,” Baisden said.
This will not be the first-time a company came into Fort Wayne on two wheels. In 2016, the company Zagster set up bike racks at various locations in and around the downtown area. Those bikes rode out of town in August 2018, partly due to the restrictive nature of the program.
“Zagster’s model was changing, and we’ve been measuring the bike share community for the last several years and we just see the whole system changing,” Baisden said. “A lot of companies are going to a dockless model, and we thought it would be important to provide citizens with a more robust system.”
After Zagster’s departure, the city almost immediately got to work on finding a way to bring back access to something that many people relied on to get around.
“They provide another form of transportation,” Baisden said. “Not everybody has cars, hard as that is to believe …this is an option for a lot of individuals, plus it resolves, a lot of times, the issues people have with public transportation.”
The “dockless” share model that the city is favoring would allow riders to go wherever they want or need to with a bike without having to return it to one of the specified bike racks for the company. Instead, the bikes could be reserved and paid for on a mobile app. Once the rider has reached his or her destination, or the day has ended, someone either from the city or the company will come by to pick up and redistribute the bikes to specified checkpoints.
Baisden and representatives from several other city departments are in the midst of refining the pilot program’s requirements and needs, and a completed outline of the program is expected soon. The goal is to being piloting companies, one at a time, within the next few months. There are some companies, Baisden pointed out, that are already ready and waiting to submit their application for the program.
“There have been companies wanting to do this since last fall,” Baisden said. “People see the bike culture growing in Fort Wayne and see the robust network of trails we have. We’re certain to see a lot more bikable, walkable communities.”
The benefits of biking have shown to be more than just health-related. A study done by the Institute for Tourism and Recreation Research in Montana found that bikers spend an average of $75 to $103 per day, while drivers spent about $58 per day. Some retailers in New York City reported a 49% spike in sales after bike lanes were installed on the nearby roads.
A lot of the reason for this impact is the spontaneity that biking allows. A biker enjoying the sights may happen upon a hidden gem more easily than a driver passing through, and it is often easier to find a spot to park a bike than it is to park a car when they decide to stop in and check a place out.
The fact that more trails and bike-friendly spots are continuing to pop up in and around Fort Wayne shows how businesses are seeing the benefits of catering to a group of people not only looking to go from Point A to Point B, but also every point between.
“Biking is about providing a healthy alternative for transportation,” Baisden said. “And it gets you out there, and it gets you to experience a part of the city you can see by sitting in the car.”