Red Bike partnership pumps the brakes on poverty

Posted at 11:46 AM, Sep 11, 2015

CINCINNATI — A new partnership between two of the city’s fastest growing nonprofits will bring a new sense of mobility to Cincinnati's low-income residents.

The social services hub CityLink Center and the city’s public bike share program Red Bike have teamed up to pilot a new program to encourage low-income bike share ridership in Cincinnati.

Among Red Bike’s 17 newest stations is one set right outside the CityLink Center, located on Bank Street in West End, installed in June.

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The goal, officials said in a news conference Thursday afternoon, is to provide an affordable means of transportation to those who may not be able to afford a car of their own.

An added bonus? It will give CityLink clients a way to get around while promoting healthy activity, both major challenges surrounding the city’s poorest residents.

“Our hope is that (this) could serve as a catalyst for creating a model to cultivate new physical activity habits and overcome transportation barriers for our clients,” said CityLink Executive Director Johnmark Oudersluys in a statement released Thursday. “This program promotes the spirit of health equity when health disparities are at record highs right here in our own city.”

WATCH in the video player above as 9 On Your Side Anchor Julie O’Neill speaks with one CityLink client who has gone on to start her own business providing affordable, locally-grown food to combat pervasive hunger issues in the Tri-State.

Red Bike's partnership isn't its first with a local health organization. Earlier this year, UC Health became the bike share program's first corporate sponsor.

Despite their growing popularity around the country, bike share programs have received criticism over what some see as income-inequity, particularly when it comes to membership fees and location of stations.

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INTERACTIVE: Mapping childhood poverty in the Tri-State

But, according to Red Bike Executive Director Jason Barron, equity has been at the forefront of the program’s mission since it launched nearly a year ago.

“For us, it’s of paramount importance that Red Bike be available to everyone,” he said, adding that access to reliable transportation also means connecting people to job training, job interviews, and — ultimately — gainful employment.

While Barron said bike share remains one of the most affordable public transit options in Cincinnati (at $80, a Red Bike annual membership costs only slightly more than a monthly Metro bus pass), he said, “It’s important to meet people where they are (financially).”

To that end, this first phase of the partnership — which was made possible through a grant by Interact Health — has provided 20 CityLink clients with an annual pass for just $5. That’s just over 6 percent the cost to the general public.

“It’s our hope that this is the beginning, and we can grow this with CityLink and possibly roll out with other organizations,” Barron said. “CityLink is a perfect partner to test this collaborative new approach.”

Dave Huff and Brady Delong, with the bicycle-oriented youth outreach program Riding Forward, also participated in Thursday’s launch, offering bicycle safety training to participating CityLink clients.