Free bike sharing initiative to benefit chronically homeless in Colorado Springs

Jolie Nesmith, the executive director for PikeRide, shows Greenway Flats resident Dean Stansbury how the bike share program works Tuesday. Photo Credit: Christian Murdock, The Gazette.

Sabrina Reed was amazed at how much fun the electric-assist bicycle is to ride.

“I felt like I was just zooming,” said the 25-year-old resident of Greenway Flats, a permanent apartment complex for adults who are chronically homeless. She had just taken one of the bikes for a spin Tuesday.

“I mostly walk everywhere, and I have bunions on my feet, so it makes it really difficult,” Reed said. “This makes it a lot easier.”

Walking, getting a lift from someone or riding a city bus to a service agency, an appointment, a job or to just get out and about are no longer the only modes of transportation for the residents, who are trying to overcome homelessness.

Free bike sharing is now an alternative.

“We really wanted to be able to give them an option for single-passenger transportation, making it easier for them to commute and getting them more mobile,” said Riley Bratzler, community outreach specialist for PikeRide, a nonprofit bike-sharing program in Colorado Springs.

PikeRide received a $10,000 grant from the Better Bike Share Partnership to provide free bike-share memberships, helmets and gear to residents. The organization also will conduct an orientation, which includes instruction on how to ride the electric-assist bicycles, stay safe, find routes and obey rules of the road.

“It’s not just handing somebody a free pass and saying, ‘Go take a ride,’” PikeRide Executive Director Jolie Nesmith said. “Not everybody understands electric-assist bikes.”

The amenity program was supposed to begin in March, but the coronavirus pandemic delayed the launch until Tuesday. An information booth, a ribbon-cutting ceremony at a new bike station in front of the apartment building, and a bike ride in groups of 10 were part of the festivities.

D. Sparks, who also lives in Greenway Flats, which opened one year ago on Springs Rescue Mission’s campus on West Las Vegas Street, also wants to try the free bike-share program.

“It’s awesome because I don’t have a car, and I had to pawn my bike because of no work from the coronavirus,” he said. “I have to walk to the store, and it’s a distance especially if you’re carrying groceries. A bike makes it much easier to get around.”

Participants set up an account through an application on a smart phone, which Nesmith said the majority of Greenway Flats residents have. They can ride up to 60 minutes a day and leave the GPS-equipped bicycle locked up to one of 35 ride-sharing stations around greater downtown Colorado Springs or lock it to a parking meter, a tree or other fixture.

Many people who use Springs Rescue Mission’s services don’t have transportation, spokesman Cameron Moix said. The Christian organization provides overnight shelter, meals, case management, food and clothing giveaways, addiction recovery programs and the 65-unit apartment complex.

But walking everywhere can be difficult, he said.

“We always want to encourage people to get outside — it’s good for physical, mental and emotional health, so this is a huge opportunity,” Moix said.

Homeless people who don’t live at Greenway Flats can buy an equitable “We Ride” pass for $10 a month, which provides more ride time at a low cost, Bratzler said.

Dean Stansbury plans to do that. He and his pregnant wife live at Springs Rescue Mission but not in Greenway Flats.

“It would mean a lot for us,” he said. “We walk everywhere, and sometimes we have money for the bus, but this would be cheaper.”

PikeRide bike sharing overall was up 70% in May over May of 2019 with about 2,400 rides, Nesmith said. The organization also is offering free 30-minute rides for all through June. For more information, go to https://www.pikeride.org/.

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