For the much of past seven months, people have been stranded at home looking for any way to enjoy the outdoors. Reddy Bikeshare has been providing people with just such a reason.
Since the season began in April, it's been one of the busiest since the program went online in 2016. Initially, the company only serviced Buffalo, but began putting several bike stations throughout Niagara Falls. Though there have been some ups and downs related to the pandemic, Jennifer White, the co-founder and communications director of Reddy Bikeshare, found things have been going better than expected.
"More people have signed up to ride bikes than any season before ... There’a a global bike boom happening. Locally, there’s bike shops that are running out of bikes — you can’t get a bike for under $1,000," she said. "With the pandemic, people in Buffalo, Niagara Falls, and the entire region have embraced biking as a way to get out and be active, healthy and have some safe fun.”
Currently, Reddy Bikeshare is launching an effort to ease access to the bikes by partnering with Independent Health. To sign up, people just have to scan a QR code which will be at all Reddy Bikeshare docks in Niagara Falls, rather than people going to the lone kiosk at the Niagara Falls Amtrak station. White is sure this will bring more people in and this will make it more accessible for people looking to get out of the house.
Most community feedback has been positive, White said, though she went into the season relatively unsure what was going to happen, given the pandemic. What she’s found is that people are riding bikes across the entire city of Niagara Falls, not just in downtown or near the falls.
Mayor Robert Restaino, who was recently given the opportunity to test out an electric bike and electric scooter during his most recent meeting with the company, says the program is a welcome addition to the city.
“As an avid biker myself, it’s great to see a company like Reddy Bikeshare working within our community to not only provide a fun and affordable method of transportation, but also promote health and wellness here in the city of Niagara Falls,” the mayor said. “All over the country there has been a bike boom as a result of the pandemic. Having these bikes available in our city during this time has certainly made a difference to the community encouraging them to get outside.”
White had a feeling tourists would embrace the program, but residents have used it quite a bit as well. Reddy Bikeshare has a heat map of all the bikes showing their locations and where they are being used. This signals that these bikes have multiple uses — transportation, fitness and recreation.
Despite the good season, there were some obstacles in White’s way.
“Pandemic related, it was challenging to make sure we were communicating all the protocols that we put in place in order to make sure everyone was protected,” she said. “We purchased sanitizers and equipped each bike with sanitizer for use by the rider before and after. Probably the biggest challenge since getting everything prepared for pandemic protocols is just how busy we’ve been. Our operations team is definitely strained with the increase in usage, but they’re handling it well.”
In the coming weeks, Reddy Bikeshare will be holding events where people can get a tutorial on bike sharing as well as on how to use the bikes. There will also be some group rides coming up as well, and she has found that when someone is there to lead the group ride, it becomes a better experience.