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Bike share program hits Detroit’s streets

Jennifer Chambers
The Detroit News

Detroit — Pushing down on pedals and propelling red cruiser bikes down Second Avenue in Midtown, a mob of 300 riders on Tuesday launched MoGo, the city’s first public bike share system, marking an era of increased mobility and access.

The riders, wearing everything from business suits to exercise clothing, set off for 43 bike stations across the city, experiencing riding MoGo’s $1,200 bikes on Detroit’s city streets for the first time.

“I love it. I think it’s wonderful,” said rider Brenda Szalka of MoGo as she straddled a bike and prepared to take off with the group. “I did the QLine last week, so I’m really excited about all of it.”

As of Tuesday, MoGo has 430 bikes stationed across the city in 10 neighborhoods, from New Center to Clark Park to West Village to the RiverWalk.

Eric Larson, CEO of the Downtown Detroit Partnership, which is affiliated with Detroit Bike Launch, the nonprofit that operates MoGo, was on a bike for Tuesday’s launch, wearing a suit and bike helmet, preparing to leave for a ride from One Ford Place outside the Henry Ford Health System campus in Midtown.

“I’m headed to Campus Martius, and we’ll load the bikes into the station, and they will be available to the public. Then I will take the QLine back to my office,” Larson said. “It’s so easy now.”

Lisa Nuszkowski, executive director of the nonprofit Detroit Bike Share, which operates MoGo, addressed the crowd gathered in Midtown for the launch, saying the event culminates five years of hard work to get the bikes to riders. The idea started at Wayne State University in its office of economic development.

“They say it takes a village to raise a child. If that’s the case, then it takes a city to launch a bike share, that’s for sure,” Nuszkowski said. “Bike share can transform the campus community, and it will transform community health as well.”

Through grants, free bike helmets will be passed out throughout the year, she said. A separate grant from the Ralph Wilson Foundation will pay to outfit bikes for elderly and disabled and will include hand bikes and tandems, she said.

MoGo’s sponsors are Henry Ford Health System and Health Alliance Plan.

Garry Bulluck, deputy chief of Mobility Innovations for Mayor Mike Duggan, said MoGo, the QLine and improved transit in the city are the building blocks of a transportation network that is going to be world class.

“It’s an opportunity just not for people to access different parts of downtown Detroit, but also to increase physical fitness. ... This is about people’s lives,” Bulluck said.

Bikes can be rented up to four at a time from kiosks using a credit card via a cellphone app or at www.mogodetroit.org. Passes include unlimited trips under 30 minutes and start at a daily pass rate of $8 for 24 hours and run up to $80 for an annual pass.

When the ride is over, riders can return the bike to any station, slide the bike firmly into an empty dock and wait for the green light to make sure it’s locked, MoGo officials said.

The bikes, a red-orange color with black seats, are made in New York. Described as casual cruisers, each bike has relaxed handlebars with a basket and lights in front, with plastic protected fenders to avoid dirty pant legs.

MoGo is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, with the exception of severe weather, program officials said.

WSU student Hailey Richardson, 20, lives on campus and plans to use the MoGo bikes daily.

“I feel like on campus they will have a lot of stations. I like riding bikes. I think it will be fun,” she said.

In 2013, Rock Ventures/Quicken Loans became the first businesses in the city to adopt a formal bike-share program, partnering with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based Zagster to offer 48 bicycles to 9,200 employees.

“We are supportive of the city’s MoGo program and, based on how our team members embraced our bike share program, we think MoGo will be a great new transportation option for Detroiters in and around the downtown area,” according to a Quicken Loans statement.