Big Companies Bringing Bike-Share to Small Cities

tulsa.jpgAs metropolises like New York and Philadelphia consider the benefits of bike sharing, and with Washington DC already off and riding, smaller cities are getting in on the action as well, often through the initiative of major local employers.

Last year, health care giant Humana started a bike-share for employees at its Louisville, Kentucky headquarters. As of this May, some 2,500 of Humana's 8,500 Louisville-based workers had enrolled in the "Freewheelin" program, which, as the name implies, is offered at no charge. Humana is bringing 1,000 Freewheelin bikes to Minneapolis-St. Paul for the Republican National Convention in September, and will leave behind 70 of them, along with checkout kiosks, for use in the Twin Cities' own fledgling bike-share program. Humana is also providing bikes for the Democratic convention in Denver, which plans to put them to use in a new city program of its own.

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, Saint Francis Health System launched "Tulsa Townies" last August. The Tulsa program is also free, and bikes are available to the public at four checkout stations, all located in parks along the Arkansas River.

Across the Canadian border, credit union Vancity last year loaned out close to 50 bikes to residents of Vancouver, British Columbia, to ride free of charge for three weeks before passing them on to other users. The bikes were eventually collected and distributed to low-income would-be cyclists. Vancity complemented its program with a web site encouraging users to blog about their bike-share experience.

And back down in Portland, Oregon, whose municipal program seems to have hit a snag, a homegrown company has put its own twist on the bike-share concept. Rejuvenation, which manufactures and sells "new old stock" vintage home hardware, is raffling off one bike per month, complete with gear, to its employees. Winners must commit to riding their bikes to work an average of at least once a week, or else they must give the bike a co-worker. Rejuvenation also gives out bus passes, along with up to $30 per month to any employee who walks, bikes, or takes transit to work.

Photo: Tulsa Townies