Evan and Jenna Osborne have spent much of the last 16 years exploring the globe. As you’ll see, the couple’s adventurous spirit led directly to their creation of Ride Salem, the new bike share program in their gorgeous Oregon hometown (also the state capital). When not building a bike share or traveling, Jenna and Evan are healthcare professionals -- to say that they’re committed to helping people live healthier lives would be an understatement. The Salem bike share perfectly aligns with their lifetime mission around improving public health. I spoke recently with the couple about how they built the new Salem (OR) bike share to serve the city’s 170,000 residents.
Could you tell us about yourselves and Salem (OR)?
Evan: I'm a licensed medical professional, and have been in healthcare for many years. I worked on the front lines of cancer care for over a decade, and then ventured into leadership roles within hospital quality. Jenna and I grew up primarily in the Salem area, and that's where she and I met.
Jenna: Salem is absolutely beautiful. You're within a couple hours of the gorgeous Oregon coast. You've got Central Oregon -- Bend, Redmond, and other beautiful areas -- and then you've got mountains. Mount Hood, parks, national parks, all sorts of amazing natural scenery. There are so many breweries, great wineries with these incredible wines that compete with French wines. We think Salem is a very special place.
How did the idea of a Salem bike share begin?
Evan: It started in July, 2010 on a trip to Minneapolis, where we discovered the bike share there. I looked into it, and put the idea on the back-burner. I was working in Corvallis, Oregon at the time, and learned that Corvallis was considering a bike share. I knew the founders of the Corvallis program and met with them to learn what they were doing. They volunteered to be my mentors in the process. That's when I started to push a bike share in Salem. [Stacy: this story reminds me of how Spencer Burton got inspired to start a bike share at his university while interning for his Congressperson in Washington, D.C., where he fell in love with its bike share -- see of our interview with Spencer.]
How did you develop and implement the Salem bike share?
Evan: We began discussions with one of the directors at a health system in Salem who said there’s a large community grant available, upwards of $100,000. He said the bike share looked like something that aligned well with the criteria for the grant, but we needed to be a 501(c)(3) nonprofit to qualify. We got that non-profit status (as Ride Salem) and were finalists for the grant, but we didn’t get it.
While waiting on the grant, we were doing door-to-door fundraising and rallying support. We got people on board. When the grant fell through, we had sponsors already. We postponed our launch goals as a result of not getting the grant, but we’d already built momentum in the community behind the bike share.
Jenna: We were pursuing the bike share as a kind of startup. It was really beautiful that many of the people who believed in us from the beginning were other Salem startups. They were building from their own bootstraps too, and we really appreciated their early and continuing support.
What about working with Salem officials?
Evan: We needed approvals for right-of-ways in the public domain, and it's been very labor intensive. We're working with multiple departments within the city: Public Works, the Historic Society, Parks and Recreation, and others. There's a lot of process to get operational. June 22nd was our formal launch date. We collaborated with departments within the State of Oregon that want to participate, which is huge.
Why did you end up choosing Zagster as your operational partner?
Evan: My acquaintances in Corvallis had a positive, turnkey experience with Zagster. Some of the other potential operations partners had minimum requirements to purchase bicycles. I liked Zagster’s lease option. We aren’t a huge program with massive budgets.
Other potential partners didn’t have the specialty bicycle options we wanted. I know lots of people who can't ride a typical cruiser bicycle, so offering them a hand cycle or a trike or a recumbent bike, as Zagster allowed us, mattered a great deal. Having those options just pulled at our heartstrings, especially considering our healthcare backgrounds. Zagster also offers multiple modes of mobility. So many folks are excited about e-scooters, and we could satisfy that clientele in the future by incorporating e-scooters, creating a whole multi-modal micro-mobility system.
What are you hoping to see now that you’ve launched?
Jenna: More people out there using bikes, enjoying the outdoors, and having great experiences like Evan and I had seeing places on two wheels. And if we can get more cars off the road, decrease traffic, decrease air pollution, give people alternate means of transportation, reduce the need for parking, we’d love all of that.
Evan: I’m also excited about seeing local businesses benefit from being associated with the bike share, because it's going to bring them more customers. We’re also hoping to help lower-income people with our cost-effective transportation program.
Stacy: You are both inspiring and amazing people. Zagster is truly honored to be partnering with YOU on the Salem bike share! And if anybody reading this has become inspired to start a micro-mobility program, feel free to reach out to us.
Riders can enjoy 4 hours of free ride time with the promo code RIDESALEM, compliments of Osborne Adventures. Simply download the Zagster app, create a member profile (in the app or online at https://ride.zagster.com/signUp), and plug in the code.