GREENbike: Signs of an Economy on a Roll

May 04, 2016 Written by

Utah was named the Beehive state for its industrious workers, that idea still holds true today in downtown Salt Lake City. Tech companies are flocking, startups and coworking spaces pump out new businesses and a young, educated workforce is taking advantage of a record low unemployment rate. There is no denying the buzz of activity taking place. On any given night, people swarm the sidewalks bouncing between restaurants, art galleries and theatres. In addition to a growing nightlife scene, other signs of downtown’s golden age can be seen in new apartments, condos and increasing methods to reach all of these businesses.

With all these people, you might wonder, “Where is the traffic jam?” In addition to an expansive public transit system and a walkable downtown, a bike-friendly city has helped ease auto traffic in a time with a flurry of economic activity. The wildly successful and ever expanding GREENbike program helps you get from point A to B easily and conveniently. Best of all, you’re helping to clean the air while having fun AND supporting local businesses.

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Now heading into their fourth year, GREENbike, led by Ben Bolte and the rest of the GREENbike crew are equipped with an arsenal of 24 stations, nearly 200 bikes and a hunger for expansion. Bolte quantifies GREENbike’s role in the flourishing downtown ecosystem in more than just dollars and cents. “In addition to the commuting benefits, GREENbike promotes infill development, air quality and can help with sales for downtown businesses”. In fact, in a recent survey the number one reason people used GREENbike was for food and drink, closely followed by commuting and social. The numbers don’t lie, nor do the smiles of all the people riding: well over 100,000 last year.

GREENbike is a result of prosperity, as well as driving force for spurring the local economy. The secret to their rapid growth and success? Density. Each station is selected by looking at a number of variables such as proximity to public transit, surrounding nightlife, grocery stores etc. All without veering too far from the closest station. It’s a recipe that has made GREENbike an elite and high performing bike share program, putting them with the likes of larger cities like Boston and Washington D.C. Density of stations also makes people more inclined to live near a station. 75 percent of respondents of the aforementioned survey were more likely to choose an apartment or condo downtown with a station in front or nearby. Making it fast and fun to go to Harmons Grocery Store to restock your cabinets or down to the Beerhive to grab a drink with friends.

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Frequent rider and UCAIR board member, Ryan Evans has been a GREENbike advocate and annual passholder since GREENbike’s inception. Aside from the obvious clean air benefits of riding a bike that supports the mission of the statewide clean air partnership, he says GREENbike is the most efficient way to get around downtown. “It’s just as fast, if not faster than driving if you consider finding a parking spot, parking and then walking to your destination. And the best part about it is that it’s a lot of fun.” From an economic standpoint, Evans thinks that more companies should get on board with GREENbike’s Office Pass Program where they can buy discounted passes for employees. “The cost of a GREENbike pass would be a lot cheaper than reimbursing employees for parking downtown. You’ll be improving your company’s bottom line while improving workplace morale.” Ryan practices what he preaches and finished in the top-ten of annual passholder rides three out of the past four years.

It’s not just bike enthusiasts that love the program. Casual bikers like families and groups of friends frequently use the bike share program, especially on the weekends. Downtown businesses are reaping the benefits, such as one of the first station sponsors, Squatters Pub Brewery who have seen firsthand the effects GREENbike can have on business. “It’s amazing how much activity we see at our station from both out of town visitors and locals alike” says Judy Cullen, marketing director for Squatters and Wasatch Brewery. “We get nothing but positive feedback from our guests about the ease, convenience and just plain fun of riding a GREENbike around the city.” For the businesses on the fence about having or sponsoring a station nearby, Cullen encourages them to take the plunge. “They will be amazed by the energy and customers that the stations bring.”

With expansion in mind, the sky that they’re keeping clean is the limit for GREENbike. This means more connections to and from downtown coupled with public transit, more apartments and condos with stations in front, easy bar and restaurant hopping and most importantly an efficient and fun way to get around that won’t break the bank. More locations will be added downtown, and eventually throughout the Salt Lake Valley, and businesses are sure to feel a boost in atmosphere and sales. It’s easy to see the trend in GREENbike’s ridership data, every time they add new stations - rides increase, and that’s good news for anyone that owns a business or lives near one. From the hardcore 365 day bikers to the suburban families enjoying a weekend downtown, GREENbike will continue to mix business and pleasure for years to come.