For the past nine weeks, I have spent my Wednesday mornings at the Original Farmers Market in downtown Indianapolis, tabling for the Pacers Bikeshare Everybody Rides program. Each morning consisted of some light set up, friendly conversation, ample people watching, and a general buzz of excitement for fresh, locally grown produce. Very little time, however, was spent actually getting people signed up to ride bikes. That being said, if I were to measure the significance and success of my summer with numbers and stats, it would appear to be somewhat of a bust. But after being out there every Wednesday doing what I did, experiencing the community and making connections, I’d like to think it was anything but.
Through Everybody Rides, low income residents of the city can purchase Pacers Bikeshare Annual Passes for a simple $10 payment, a price that’s been discounted 88%. In order to determine who qualifies, we teamed up with the Original Farmers Market’s Fresh Bucks program, the idea being that if you are eligible for Fresh Bucks, you are eligible for Everybody Rides. Week after week, I watched as happy customers swiped their cards in return for money to use at the market. And week after week, I was failed to register those same customers for bike share.
Initially, when I introduced the concept of EveryBody Rides to a potential beneficiary, they gave me one of two reactions. The first: disinterest. Maybe they already had a bike of their own. Maybe they hadn’t ridden a bike in forever. Maybe they didn’t feel they spent enough time downtown for bike share to be “worth it.” Believe me, I’ve heard it all. And fair enough; even though bike share is for everyone, it might not be for everyone.
But for those who were interested, the response was much different: excitement. The look on people’s faces when would I tell them how far $10 could take them… there was almost always a transition from doubt, a look that beckoned “what’s the catch,” to surprise, once they realized, “there isn’t one.” If I could put into words what it feels like to be a voice that reminds people that there is a place for them in this city, that things like farmers markets and bike share memberships aren’t beyond their reach, that they are not forgotten or marginalized, I would write it. But alas…
It seems that, somewhere between someone taking interest in bike share and them actually signing up, there’s a disconnect. Maybe they need more time to think. Maybe, in the moment, they aren’t ready to spend an extra $10 that wasn’t budgeted for. But what keeps them from signing up in the future? It’s all a puzzle I have yet to figure out.
There’s something to be said about lending a hand with no expectation of anything in return. To me, the Pacers Bikeshare EveryBody Rides program fully embodies this notion. I see incredible potential regarding the impact a program like this can make on a city like Indy and there’s no doubt it my mind that it will. I am forever grateful that this summer, I got to be a part of scratching into that surface. So here’s to my predecessor and here’s to digging in.