In big cities, bikeshares are run by big business. In Youngstown, Ohio, the family-owned YoGo Bikeshare believes in the power of ‘micro-mobility.’
And that shift in thinking may be revolutionary for the bike sharing industry as a whole.
Founder Ronnell Elkins started YoGo Bikeshare last year to democratize the e-bike experience for the 60,000 residents of Youngstown. He told Streetsblog in a podcast interview that the idea started in 2017 when a trip to DC and a look at their bikeshare system got him thinking about how his town could benefit from bike rentals.
Small town equals a big opportunity
Rather than seeing the small town’s size as a deterrent, Elkins saw it as an entrepreneurial opportunity to rethink how bikeshares could work. “We wanted to be the first to introduce it and grow from the aspect of, ‘Alright, we don’t have anything here [in terms of bike sharing].’ There’s no rules or guidelines to it. Let’s create the rules and guidelines to bike sharing in our community, and grow it and see how it works,” he said in the interview.
Towns like Youngstown are often overlooked by the bikeshare giants like Lyft, because those big businesses require growth and scalability in order to be profitable.
But a small and agile organization like YoGo Bikeshare can quickly establish themselves in the market and grow as their ridership does.
“We look forward to helping more people of all socio-economic backgrounds,” Elkins told Streetsblog. “We want to make sure that they have access to alternative modes of transportation, to be healthier, to gain access to healthy fruits and vegetables and different things like that. We just want to be a tool that people can utilize to help benefit them.”
Elkins added that while YoGo Bikeshare is a Black-owned business—which is unfortunately unique in the cycling industry—he doesn’t want that to define YoGo. “I don’t put a lot of emphasis on being Black-owned,” he told Streetsblog. “What I do put emphasis on is running our business in a way that our city can be proud of. That’s been my focus from the beginning, that will continue to be my focus.”
A bikeshare that’s 100 percent e-bikes
The YoGo Bikeshare works similarly to standard bike shares around the world: It’s app-based and riders can choose single or subscription options.
The big difference is that rather than starting with regular bikes, Elkins has focused solely on ebikes.
And that shift has also required educating the community about how to ride, which led to hosting bike nights and town halls, which has had the benefit of spreading the word about the new bikeshare.
He also believes that ebikes are the future of transportation, since they make bike commutes more accessible for more people.
When the bikeshare officially launches this Spring, there will be three stations with docks and 30 ebikes placed strategically around Youngstown, ready to ride. You can learn more about YoGo Bikeshare here.
Read the article from by Molly Hurfurd for www.bicycling.com here.