Bloomington is giving a bike share program a second shot nearly 20 years after the city’s first attempt didn’t pan out.
The 1998 Yellow Bike Project
David Milewski was the 19-year-old Indiana University student who came up with the idea to start the Yellow Bike Project for a class project. The idea was for Bloomington residents to find a yellow bike, ride it to their destination then leave it there for someone else to ride elsewhere. The cost-free program started in August of 1998 with 25 donated bikes. The goal was to eventually have 100 repaired bikes available to the public. Nearly 10 days after the project launched, three of the 25 bikes were already vandalized. “We can handle a loss that size and we can continue to handle losses should they occur,” Milewski told the Herald Times in 1998. “They’re not going to stop us.” Three short months later, the program died after vandalism and theft became an overwhelming issue.
Bloomington gives bike sharing another shot
More than a decade has passed since the failure of the first bike share program in Bloomington, but the city is ready to give the program another shot.
“The idea then was to have free bikes that people could use, and it was based completely on the honor system.”
“The idea then was to have free bikes that people could use and it was based completely on the honor system,” Jane St. John, a consultant for the city of Bloomington, says.
Many changes have been made to the new bike share project. “It’s much more comprehensive,” St. John says. “It’s much better prepared in terms of how the bikes are let around the community, and it involves contracting with a private company so that the city and the university are partnering to invite companies to bid on the opportunity to provide bikes for the citizens of Bloomington to share.”
Another major difference with the new program is that the bikes are locked until ready to be used by the rider. St. John says there will be an app to use to locate and unlock the bike. The time on the bikes will be tracked, and users will be charged by the increment of time they ride it. The app will also include a payment method.
The initial 150 bikes will have an adjustable seat, front and back lights, a basket, and five to seven different gears. Eventually, the goal is to have one bike for every 100 people in the city.
St. John says the city and university are planning to choose a vendor to supply the bikes by early January. They hope to launch the bike share following IU’s spring break.
“All the students that are here this academic year have a chance to experience the bikes before they go home for the summer,” St. John says. “So, maybe they’ll think about not bringing their bikes, or even their cars back to campus.”