Community collaboration brings more convenient transportation to town
By Zach Dietmeier & Rachelle Leuty
A bike sharing program through the Town of Normal is connecting BN residents with a new way to travel, and it’s also connecting community organizations in new ways through a strong town-gown relationship.
Bike Share 309 was unveiled to the Bloomington-Normal community on March 20, 2017, and the program has been on a roll ever since.
“With our Uptown Station Intermodal Transportation Center, our EV Town initiative, our location at the intersection of three interstate highways, and in countless other ways, the Town of Normal understands transportation and its future,” Normal Mayor Chris Koos said. “Bike Share 309 offers an efficient, healthy, and fun option for Normal residents and visitors to go where they want, when they want.”
There are 45 bicycles and two adult tricycles spread across nine convenient bike stations. Four locations dot the Illinois State University campus; from there, riders can find bikes in Uptown Normal or down the Constitution Trail by the Connie Link Amphitheatre. Stations are also located at Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, Illinois Wesleyan University, and Museum Square in Downtown Bloomington.
A major goal of the program is to enhance the local quality of life through an easy, sustainable, and heart-healthy way to explore Bloomington-Normal. As a bronze-level Bike Friendly Community, it has never been easier to transition from four wheels to two in Normal. Advocate BroMenn, as a sponsor and a partner of the program, encourages the community to cycle for exercise.
“We are very excited to sponsor Bike Share 309,” BroMenn President Colleen Kannaday said. “Keeping our community healthy is our ultimate goal, and biking is a wonderful way to get exercise and fresh air. It’s a perfect fit for us.”
The goal for the first year of the program is to attract 3,300 rides; after two months, Bike Share 309 passed 750 rides; six weeks later, that number has ballooned to 1,387 rides taken by 605 active members – offsetting more than 15,871 pounds of CO2 emissions.
“We are excited about giving people another transportation option around the community,” Town Planner Mercy Davison said. “We know people are choosing to get themselves around in different ways.”
“From a medical perspective, it’s a terrific way to elevate heart rate and it’s easy on the joints,” Kannaday said.
The Bike Share 309 committee consists of representatives from Advocate BroMenn, Bike BloNo, Illinois State University, Illinois Wesleyan University, City of Bloomington, Connect Transit, Bloomington-Normal Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, McLean County, Route 66 Visitors Center, and the Town of Normal. Wide-scale community collaboration was carefully built into the implementation process.
“We want the system to be successful, so we knew that we needed a couple of stations that wouldn’t necessarily be in Normal,” Davison said. “We put them at Illinois Wesleyan and the Route 66 Visitor’s Center because these are institutions we partner with anyway.”
Another aim of the bike sharing program is to offer affordability. Riders may pay $3 per hour or sign up at $10 per month or $40 per year. Government employees and university students, staff, and faculty have access to $25 per year rates.