The Rapidian

New app-driven bike sharing program comes to Grand Rapids

Spokefly bikes can be used all over Grand Rapids and parked at any bike rack since the entire transaction is through the Spokefly app.
New Spokefly bikes at The Spoke Folks shop

New Spokefly bikes at The Spoke Folks shop /Chelsie Wyse

Jay Niewieck of The Spoke Folks with the new Spokefly bikes downtown

Jay Niewieck of The Spoke Folks with the new Spokefly bikes downtown /Christopher John Wilson

Spokefly bikes in front of Kendall

Spokefly bikes in front of Kendall /Elizabeth Rogers Drouillard

Spokefly is a new bike sharing program that has just started in Grand Rapids, making it possible for residents to "rent a bike instantly from your phone," according to their website. The concept was made reality through the a collaboration between Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and The Spoke Folks.

"Bill Kirk at Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and I began talking and working together. Looking at the GR Forward plan which would recommend a bike share, we threw around concepts and stumbled across Spokefly, which I thought was a really interesting model," says Jay Niewieck, Executive Director of The Spoke Folks.

"Spokefly is app driven, which makes it more flexible than traditional bike share models, which are a rack driven system. App driven means it allows people to ride right up to the front door of their destination and put it on a regular bike rack. It's much more flexible; they're not tied to specific racks in the city," he says. "For example with ArtPrize coming up, certain destinations will have a higher need, for maybe just a couple weeks, so we can be more adaptable to those needs. Wherever the winning art piece is, we can accommodate that bike location by putting more bikes there."

Spokefly is in three cities so far. Grand Rapids is the first city where Spokefly has used a larger fleet of bikes. This is facilitated by working with GR Bikes LLC, which owns the bikes and pays Spoke Folks to maintain them.

Spoke Folks has a business contract to maintain the bikes which aligns with their mission of getting people on bikes in Grand Rapids. It is a new model for them, but they did it to give people one more option for how to get around the city.

The pilot program is starting with 65 bikes, and next spring it will be up to 400 bikes. 

"It's 100% through your phone, so it's really easy to use. When you're finished with your ride you take a photo of bike, prompted by app, so the records show that you locked it up where you said you did," says Niewieck. "The fee structure is $1 [initial safe ride fee] and 15 cents a minute to ride. Most people take 5-7 minute long trips, so it's really meant for shorter trips. You can use it longer. People are welcome to do that, but most people will use it for the shorter trips."

Niewieck says the most frequently asked questions so far are because people are expecting it to be a more complicated system. The simplified system, he says, makes using the system all about enjoying the ride "and enjoying rest of your day."

"Our city is continuing to grow, and we have GR Forward and a bunch of other work happening to have everyone included in our city, and transportation is a part of that," he says. "This new option gives everyone that comes downtown more ways to get around our city and I'm excited for people to discover our city in that new way."

To use the Spokefly bikes in Grand Rapids download the Spokefly app, sign up and enter credit card info for future transaction. A map showing where the user is and where all current Spokefly bikes are pops up so that the closest bike can be found.

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