The Godfather of the Cheyenne Re-Ride program was a guy named Harry.
He told me of a program where the police in another municipality would donate the unclaimed bikes to the school district for kids assigned court-ordered community service, They would learn to repair the bikes and put them at local trailheads for bike paths.
I loved this idea. One day I met with Downtown Development Authority director Amy Surdam and told her I was going to start a bike share. She said that a bike share was on the DDA strategic plan and they wanted in.
I had spoken to George Anadiotis from Rock on Wheels, but the cost for a complete rack set up was out of his budget range. Still, he thought this idea had merit.
In January of 2016, Amy and I told the DDA board at its meeting we had come up with a plan to develop a bike share. I remember their faces when we pitched it. Not much enthusiasm, but they approved for the idea to progress.
Amy, George, the DDA’s Desiree Brothe and I met at Rock on Wheels one morning for a brainstorming session. My assignment was to get bicycles and work with the Police Department and city leaders. Amy was to work on DDA budget issues and with the board on progress. George would outfit the donated bikes and racks.
I put out the notice that I was collecting bikes for Cheyenne's first bike share and asked for donations. Over 200 bikes were donated.
We worked on the “All parts of the buffalo to be used theory" and stripped all usable parts for our fleet. I thought we were just going to decal them in case of theft. George had other ideas and powder-coated them and made them look amazing. I went to the shop to see the first one and told George, “Man, it’s going to suck when these get stolen."
Amy asked our small group if it could be called Re-Ride. She liked that these repurposed bikes would now be given a rebirth, revitalized and re-rode. I remember George and I saying we didn’t care what it was called; we just wanted a successful program.
At the February DDA meeting, George rode the first Re-Ride pilot bike around the Asher Ballroom and parked it in front of the board. We told them that George had five bikes complete with another 15 in process.
The DDA president at the time said, “You guys did this in one month!”
They has thought our April 1, 2016 kickoff date was farfetched the month before, but now they were all on board.
The program is now in its fourth year. I was worried with the mayor’s budget cut to DDA funding that the Re-Ride program would be cut as low-hanging fruit. I was in for a real surprise.
The DDA had worked on a partnership with Visit Cheyenne to expand the program. To enhance a tourism experience, they wanted to improve on the existing program.
We had the data to show an increase in ridership over the lifespan of the program. Rock on Wheels was getting so many phone calls for passcodes, it was detracting from their commercial workload. A good double-edge sword. How awesome to know a program you started was blowing up, but bad to have an employee on the phone all the time!
With the new DDA-Visit Cheyenne partnership comes amazing opportunities. They are building off our platform and doing what we were hoping for in 2016.
New bicycles are going to be ordered to create uniformity. This cuts down on repair costs since all bikes would be outfitted with the same thing.New locks are being experimented with that come with an app, so you have 24-hour accessible bikes, not just Rock on Wheels’ business hours.
Expansion into new parts of Cheyenne. With the Visit Cheyenne partnership, new bike centers can be placed at hotels and other tourist-heavy sites as a mobile transportation network.
More ride-ability on Cheyenne's Greenway, and to other parts of Cheyenne. This is what all of us had envisioned in 2016.
I know some of you might feel this is branching away from the original grassroots effort and will be sad to see the yellow bikes go away. But I’ve talked to George and Amy, and we are all excited about the future. Because we have skin in the game, we still will watch our baby as she grows, and I guarantee I’ll be very vocal if she is abused, or people try to use our vision for their own greed, ambition and ego.
I am very proud of my associates who helped make this happen and look forward to the progression of the vision. Thank you all, once again, who donated, supported and mostly rode Cheyenne's first bike share program
Richard Johnson is a former City Council member from Cheyenne’s east side.