Emporia is well known both locally and internationally as a biking community, often called the gravel capital of the world in certain circles. For Emporia, cycling is an event that brings thousands of riders, spectators, and support crew members to the community for the Dirty Kanza Gravel Road Race each June. But for many Emporians biking was a case of the haves and the have-nots.
Those serious about cycling who are able and willing to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars in the sport had the opportunity to purchase bikes one of three local specialty shops. For those who may need a bike for transportation it could be out of reach. Healthier Lyon County saw the need to have accessible bikes for transportation and recreation for both citizens and visitors alike.
We received a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation in 2017 that provided funds for a bike share in Emporia, we just needed to figure out how it would work and who would manage the program. We knew that as a coalition we didn’t have the ability to sustainability to manage a long-term program such as this. We partnered with the Multi Use Pathway Planning (MUPP) board to approach Emporia City Commissioners with a request that the City manage the bike share program. Commissioners were open to the concept and felt as though it would be beneficial for Emporia. After some research for how it works in other communities, they agreed to host the program.
Emporia’s new bike share program was ready for community use on September 11, 2019. With the grant funds from the Kansas Health Foundation, 24 new bikes are available at six solar powered stations including Logan Avenue Elementary School, Emporia High School, Lee Beran Recreation Center, Do-B’s, the Lyon County Sheriff’s Office and Crosswinds Counseling and Wellness. The bike share program is free, though users must download and app and leave a credit card in case of damages or failure to return the bikes.
“It’ll be really great for (people who can’t afford bikes)to be able to experience and help them get around and find a cheap way of getting from point a to point b instead of walking,” said Alex Barnes, president of the Hybrid Vigor Cycling Club on Emporia State University campus during an interview for the ESU Bulletin.
Grant Manager Daphne Mertens also believes it will also be more successful in Emporia because they started out small. She said because Emporia is such a strong biking community and is a small town, the program will flourish.