To the bike sharing programs in Paris, New York, Chicago and Chattanooga, add Detroit. But only if billionaire Dan Gilbert lets you use it.
On Wednesday, Gilbert's Rock Ventures/Quicken Loans empire announced it was setting up a private bike sharing network for its 9,200 employees downtown. According to the Detroit Free Press, the program is a joint venture with Zagster, from Cambridge, Mass.
Employees will be able to hop on 48 Breezer bikes that will be set up in eight locations around downtown. The bikes are free to the Gilbert gang, who can park them anywhere they want, locking them up with a lock that comes with the bike. When they're done, they're supposed to return the bikes to one of the company's bike racks.
Quicken Loans president Jay Farner put it this way.
The launch of Zagster in Detroit is another way we are activating our streets and helping our team members explore Detroit — on two wheels versus four. Bike sharing fits in with our place making initiatives. We hope other downtown companies will follow our lead and consider bringing this perk to their team members.
The Quicken/Rock approach isn't new. Companies around the world have bike sharing programs, allowing people to ride around corporate campuses. And, some firms are getting discount memberships for employees in public bike sharing programs, like Citi Bikes in New York and Divvy in Chicago.
But putting a company bike sharing program in the middle of a downtown — not just any downtown, but the downtown of a bankrupt city — creates a have and have not situation. That brings up a necessary question.
Why doesn't Gilbert finance a bike sharing program for the entire city?
It's certainly something Detroiters would appreciate at this moment in time, and enjoy. at least during months when biking is practical. The goodwill would be enormous.
Bikes could be a selling point to convince people to move to Corktown or Midtown or Woodbridge, since they could easily commute. And while there's a risk of bikes getting trashed or stolen, I'm willing to bet people would make sure they weren't.
Detroit already has an enthusiastic bike community and while this is certainly something generous for Gilbert's employees, how wonderful if everyone could take part in it, too.
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