Need a ride in Detroit? Soon you can share a bike
The red-orange frames accented by black seats and handlebars are to hit Detroit's streets next month as the city's first public bike share system.
When they do, the 430 bikes will travel under the name MoGo, a nod to the city's Motor City nickname and its mobility future, according to Lisa Nuszkowski, executive director of what has been known so far as Detroit Bike Share. The MoGo name, in gray and red letters outlined in white, will adorn the system's bikes and kiosks.
"Detroit put the world on four wheels, and now we're trying to put people on two," Nuszkowski said this week.
Formerly with Wayne State University, Nuszkowski calls the multiyear effort to bring a bike share program to Detroit a labor of love.
Now, four years after a study on the feasibility of bringing bike share to the Motor City, Detroit is poised, sometime in mid- to late May to join the estimated 70 to 80 cities in the U.S. and more than 700 worldwide with such systems. Those programs typically allow users who purchase passes to select a bike at a designated station, ride for a set amount of time and return it to the same or different station.
Bike share systems are promoted as a way to encourage cycling and healthy living, provide another option for short trips without worries about finding parking and offer a solution for the so-called first and last mile issue, where the problem is about getting people to or from transit offerings. MoGo is expected to launch within weeks of the QLINE, Detroit's 3.3-mile streetcar line on Woodward Avenue, which starts hauling passengers on May 12.
MoGo will feature 430 bikes at 43 stations in 10 neighborhoods, including Eastern Market, Lafayette Park, downtown, New Center and Woodbridge (the station map is to be released in May). To ride, users can purchase various passes — an $8 daily pass (these can only purchased at the station kiosk or with a smartphone), $18 monthly pass and an $80 annual pass (there's also a limited-time $100 option, which includes extra daily passes for friends or family). Anyone who receives state benefits can get an annual pass for $5.
Credit cards offer the most versatile way to buy a pass, but cash will also be accepted for monthly and annual passes. The cash option involves selecting a pass online and then taking a bar code print-out or a smartphone with the information to a CVS, Family Dollar or 7-11 to pay.
Rides are limited to 30 minutes, but additional trips can be purchased ($4 for daily pass holders, $2 for others) or assessed automatically if you run past your time. If you fail to return a bike, it will cost you the $1,200 replacement price. Nuszkowski said the combination of GPS tracking and station hardware — a green light appears when the bike is locked in the station dock — tracks the ride length.
Providing a cash payment option allows MoGo to err on the side of accessibility for the largest number of people. The system will encourage people to "do the right thing," but Nuszkowski said that, although it is not expected to be a problem, if bike theft becomes an issue, it will be addressed.
Stations will hold an average of 10 bikes and include a kiosk, where payments are accepted. If a station is full when a rider tries to return a bike, they will need to press a screen to get free extra time and pedal to a different station.
The bikes themselves, which are supplied by PBSC Urban Solutions of Montreal, are designed to withstand the abuse of regular riding by a steady stream of riders and prevent damage. The bikes have splash guards and internal cables, and special tools are needed to work on them. The step-through frame design should make the bikes user-friendly for a variety of riders.
They come equipped with flashing lights and bells, and the seat height adjusts easily.
Shift Transit of Chicago, which is handling operations, has hired about 18 seasonal and permanent workers and plans to hire about seven more.
The system is supported through a variety of sources, including a more than $1 million federal grant, corporate sponsorships and foundation help. It's expected to cost about $2 million to launch and about $1 million per year to operate, with half of the operational budget coming from sponsors and half from user fares, Nuszkowski said.
The system has two title sponsors — Henry Ford Health System and HAP — as well as station sponsors Ally and Blue Cross Blue Shield, in addition to a number of other partners.
While MoGo will be the first public bike share system in Detroit, Zagster, a Cambridge, Mass., bike share company partnered with Dan Gilbert's Rock Ventures/Quicken Loans in 2013 to provide the service to Gilbert's employees.
A spokeswoman for Gilbert's Bedrock real estate company was asked about the status of the contract with Zagster, but she said the company has not made "any changes to our contract with Zagster at this time" and that "we are supportive of Detroit Bike Share and think it will be great for the city."