The Red Bike Project wrapped up Sept. 21, and according to project organizers, it was a success on all fronts. In one month, 90 bikes were checked out, maintenance needs were manageable, and community response was largely positive.
Project organizer Elise Leise provided insight on what worked well, what could be improved, and her main takeaways from the temporary bike share program in Red Wing.
The busiest bike racks were the ones at Bay Point Park and along Third Street, and most rides lasted between 30 minutes and one hour. During the week, people only rode the bikes in the evening, but on the weekends, many rode them in the early morning as well.
Only minor repairs were needed during the project. With the help of volunteers and a partnership with the Red Wing Bicycle Company & Outfitter, bikes were fixed up at a very low cost.
Initially, the project used a slightly more complex message system, which created minor confusion. The Red Bike Project Team simplified the system and added signs to the bike racks, which made using the bikes much easier. In addition, team members personally responded to people who experienced difficulties using the bikes. Leise said she thought this reinforced the idea that Red Bike was led by community members for community members, not by outside bicycle experts.
Recent RWHS alums Meyer Beckner and Joey Haley, along with Adam Wronski, Nora Bayley and Adam Kaiser, began planning the project in June.
Most of the responses to the project were positive. Recorded through the project's messaging service, several community members weighed in.
"We think this is a marvelous idea. There are so many biking trails in our beautiful Red Wing."
Another resident reflected, "Such a fantastic project! Thanks for putting it together."
Some other residents offered ways to improve the project. Several older community members wanted to participate, but didn't have the physically ability to ride the normal bikes. Perhaps, they suggested, the project could use include bikes - like the "reclining" bikes - in the future.
Beyond connecting people to a healthy, sustainable transportation alternative, Elise pointed to the collaborative nature of the project as one of the defining characteristics. Many community organizations were involved, from ArtReach to the Red Wing Police Department, from the YMCA to Live Well Goodhue County.
In the future, Leise thinks partnerships with Red Wing High School and Minnesota College Southeast could help make the bike share program a permanent fixture in the community.
"Imagine if students could apply their classwork to real-life scenarios," Leise said. "Writing grants for English class, modifying software in technical courses, creating budgets in business and finance classes."
Elise also believes involving more local businesses, through a bike-sponsorship program, could help make the program financially sustainable in the coming years.
Leise pointed to support from Live Healthy Red Wing to make the pilot project a reality. Overall, Elise believes the project accomplished its initial goals, and looks forward to more conversations on how to make the program permanent. For her though, the project was always more about community than bicycles.
"We wanted to make a statement about our community values: connection, innovation, and the beauty of the place we call home. We believe the project accomplished that," she said.