By Miranda Campbell – Collegiate Staff
As Grand Rapids continues to grow, transportation by car has become more challenging. Spokefly offers commuters a technology-based platform where riders have the opportunity to travel by bike without the hassle of owning and maintaining one of their own.
Jay Niewiek, co-founder and executive director at local non-profit bike shop The Spoke Folks, recently teamed up with the Austin, Texas-based company, Spokefly, to bring Grand Rapids a bike-sharing program that is not only simple, but affordable.
The original platform was intended for peer-to-peer bike sharing, where “bike owners” could rent their personal bikes to “riders” through the mobile app for a small fee. Niewiek took that idea one step further when his fleet of 63 bikes hit the streets of Grand Rapids in late July.
The free app is available on any Apple or Android mobile device. Once downloaded, users are required to enter in a credit or debit card number and then are re-routed to a map where they can choose the bike nearest to their location. Once a bike is chosen a lock code is revealed and the meter starts running. From there, the adventure is in the hands of the rider.
The cost of renting one of the 63 Spokefly bikes in the area is $1 to unlock and 15 cents per minute with a $45 cap for the entire day. Although the program is intended for shorter rides lasting 5-7 minutes, riders have the choice of renting up to 24 hours.
Once the ride is over, the bike can be locked to any public bike rack. All that’s left is to snap a photo showing that the bike is locked and walk away.
Public bike racks can be found throughout the the city, but the closest racks for students are located on the Grand Rapids Community College campus near the Bostwick Commons.
Niewieks’ mission at The Spoke Folks is to make cycling accessible to as many people as possible and the app was created in hopes of doing just that.
The company plans to expand to 300 bikes by early spring 2016 and will keep Spokefly bikes available throughout the winter as long as the rider data shows popular use.
“As we continue to grow in the city, alternate modes of transportation like this, are going to have to be incorporated, just for density reasons,” said Niewiek.
Over 68 miles of on-street biking lanes have been added to the roads in the last four years alone. According to The Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition, by the end of this year, 100 miles of bike lanes will be accessible to all riders, which continues to promote safer riding conditions for both recreational and commuting bikers.
For more information or to download the app, visit Spokefly’s website.
The Spoke Folks are located at 221 Logan St SW and they also sell bikes, on average, between $80-$120 and provide a space for residents to work on their bikes for $5. Mechanics are on site to assist.
With school back in session, traffic is expected to be highly congested in the metropolitan area. Spokefly is not only an environmentally conscious tool that locals and tourists of all ages can easily integrate into their daily lives, it is also a healthy and time-saving alternative to the heavy traffic anticipated in the coming weeks.
“My end goal is to just continue to provide options for people to get out of their car and use another way of getting around the city,” Niewiek said. “We have to start considering other things besides cars and at the end of the day, Spokefly is one more piece to that puzzle.”