Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Humana/Bikes Belong volunteering

Before you read anything else about the bike share program, know this: For every mile ridden on a bike from the Humana/Bikes Belong bike share program during the RNC, a $10 donation will be made to the Red Cross for hurricane relief. That's right, $10 per mile. You have until 7pm tonight and from 7am to 7pm Thursday to make a difference just by turning over the pedals. I spent 40 minutes or so goofing around downtown Minneapolis this afternoon, logged 7.2 miles and put $70 into the hurricane relief fund. How fantastic is that? Get out there, now!

I got up early this morning to head to the Stone Arch Bridge for my volunteering shift with the Freewheel!n bike share program. I had to stop and take a picture of the sunrise over Ft Snelling because it was amazing. The picture didn't capture it at all.

I arrived at the Stone Arch location a little before 7 and received my uniform and a quick training on how to check bikes in and out. They had a nice assortment of cruiser bikes. Everything from the Trek Lime and Raleigh Coasting bikes with autoshift transmissions to a Giant 24 speed city bike. They also had men's and women's Schwinn Phantom single speed cruisers, along with a Specialized single speed. There were also a couple other bikes that we didn't have many of at our location and I didn't even see what they were because they were gone so fast.

The morning started out extremely chilly, about 52 degrees when I got there at 7. Combine that with the wind of the Mississippi and we stood around with chattering teeth waiting for the sun to start warming the place up. Several of our hand scanners wouldn't work because the batteries were too cold.

This was one of the error messages. Another guy's unit actually said "battery too cold" right on the screen! Due to the cold start we never did power up the bicycle powered smoothie machine. Not that I'm complaining. The folks from Bikes Belong who were coordinating the volunteers took great care of us. There was hot coffee in the morning (very welcome at 52 degrees), snacks throughout the day and a great boxed lunch from D'Amico. Lisa, our volunteer coordinator even brought us frozen juice bars (thanks Lisa!).

After my shift ended at 1:00, I became a customer and took one of the Schwinn Phantoms out for a spin to rack up some miles for the Red Cross. Republican fever was in the air:

There were actual Republicans too:

I visited all the Minneapolis bike share sites. Traffic by the convention center was a nightmare. Traffic cops everywhere, roads randomly closed off, a zillion hybrid Tahoes and cabs everywhere.

One of the coolest things I saw was the demo of the permanent bike sharing kiosks Minneapolis will be trying out. Once the RNC is over, the bike manufacturers will be leaving 70 bikes in Minneapolis to jump start the bike sharing program. The plan is to use these bikes as a pilot with city employees to work out the kinks. Then ideally they would roll out the program city-wide in the spring. I got a demonstration, and the system is incredibly simple to use. If you can withdraw cash from an ATM, you can use this. Swipe your card, choose your bike and go. It's really a well designed system. And Humana is planning to expand the functions of the kiosks in 2009. In addition to working with Trek to design a bicycle specifically for the bike share program, they are working to add mileage tracking for each trip and GPS route tracking so you know where you went. The system already will track the number of uses, total number of miles ridden and other interesting statistics. I was really quite impressed. Thanks to Andy for answering all my questions and giving a great, informative demo.

And thanks to all the folks working at the Stone Arch station for everything today. You guys made this a wonderful experience, each in your own way. It was great to work with you and get to know you!


Anonymous said...

Hey Pete-

What a great job you did explaining the bike share program! The photos were also fabulous!! It was a pleasure working with you. Joe and Mary

Anonymous said...

It was so nice to read this. Thanks so much for all you did to help out Humaana and Bikes Belong. It was a pleasure to work with you! Shari

midway cyclist said...

Cool news on the bike sharing program, first i'd heard of it.

Freewheelin said...

Hi Pete,

Thank you for your wonderful coverage of the Freewheelin Program. I just wanted to let you konw, in case you haven't already visited, about This community page is designed for collaboration. We have links to our facebook page, our twitter feed, our blog, myspace and more. If you want to continue to get news about us subscribe to our feed, watch our youtube videos, and contribute in any way you can. We have 1,500 photos in our Flicker group pool, if you have flickr account you should definitely submit your photos to the group! Freewheelin is far from over, stay in touch with us and feel free to email me anytime. Way to go!


Naimul Huq