Indianapolis Bike Share Numbers: Some Perspective

Image Credit: Kevin Kastner
Image Credit: Kevin Kastner

The numbers for the first 6 months of the Pacers Bikeshare are in, and the program appears to be a success in comparison to a larger bike share in Denver. These numbers are nice to see, as they show that there is a demand for alternative modes of travel in the downtown area. A successful bikeshare like the one centered around the Indianapolis Cultural Trail will help to encourage future expansion.

However, I do think this data should be read with a bit more caution.  It does not prove that Indianapolis is a greener city than Denver, as the Indy Star article suggests.  What it does prove is that this service provides a method of getting around downtown Indianapolis that previously was difficult by means other than vehicles. Importantly, Denver has frequent free bus shuttles right downtown (and have just added a second free route), which likely substantially cuts down on bike share ridership.

Notice the boarding numbers for this service: Ridership on an average weekday on the FREE MallRide in 2012 was 44,865 boardings. Total ridership in the same period accommodated 13,679,785 boardings. Compare that to Indy’s Bike Share numbers, and it’s obvious that we aren’t even in the same ballpark.  Heck, that one line has more rides than in the entire IndyGo system. If Indianapolis really wants to move people of all walks of life in large quantities, then we would probably need to add a similar free and frequent shuttle downtown. Street design matters as well: 16th Street in Denver is a dedicated bus only thoroughfare, so pedestrians feel plenty welcome and safe.

It’s great that the demand exists for the Indianapolis Bike Share. The city has done a good job in making sure it is as successful as it can be. But, as always, there’s plenty more that can be done to improve mobility even further.


Comments 3

  • i have worked with the creators of a free shuttle program now running I n several cities to create a similar free shuttle program in downtown Indy to connect all the Cultural Districts from Memorial Dsy to Labor Day. See The service is sponsored by major advertisers and is free and not taxpayer supported. The idea is for a local non-profit to run the program to generate revenue to pay their program expenses and use less foundation Grant money to support themselves. Since it is intended to be run by a non-profit, I have applied for pre development grants to conduct the studies and get the free ride team here to help with design and set up. So far no grant. Right now the team is in San Diego to work with a group there and I think they should be in Indy working with a group here. I intend to keep at this until it is figured out or dies a noble death.

  • Good perspective, Kevin, and spot on. I lived in Denver and worked downtown from 1981-1990 and was there when the 16th Street Mall, transit stations and shuttle were built. It’s a small part of a bigger story about how Denver rebranded their bus service and made it cool to ride the bus. Without that, they would have never had the public support to build light rail. I think people who weren’t there don’t realize how much heavy lifting RTD did to sell Denver on transit over a long period of time. I lived 13 miles from the CBD and was also able to bike commute into downtown on off street paths and trails as early as 1981. It was a fabulous experience. Would love to chat you up sometime if you’re interested. You know how to reach me. Cheers, Bob

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