Successful Local Bike Sharing: A Q&A With Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard

Small-scale, local bike sharing works — and our system in Carmel, Indiana, is a perfect example of how to do it right.

Read the case study: Successful local bike sharing in Carmel

Which is why we were proud to participate in this year’s annual Conference of Mayors, held June 24-26 in Indianapolis, with an opening night ceremony in Carmel. Hundreds of mayors from across the country had the opportunity to see local bike sharing in action as we staffed a special bike-share station at that kickoff gala. The station offered up free rides to interested attendees, and served as a tangible indicator of the positive impact local bike sharing can have in any community.

But don’t just take our word for it: Here’s what Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard had to say about local bike sharing in Carmel when we spoke with him earlier this year.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and length

Zagster: You personally use Zagster a lot. What do you think of it?

Mayor Brainard: I love Zagster. We need to expand, work harder on getting the business community to install stations, but we've got a good base and it's been a great product for us. The bikes are well-built, the technology works well and the public loves it.

Z: Why did you decide to partner with Zagster?

MB: We looked at many providers of bicycles and bicycle-share programs. What is unique about Zagster is the fact that the city doesn't have to have the huge capital investment with your system. We can work to install stations and grow the system in a partnership with community partners and not have the entire burden be on taxpayers.

Z: Did that make it more appealing than other bike-sharing options?

MB: Yes. Not only you can grow it incrementally, but you can grow it incrementally with partners. Emphasis on the partners — community partners, businesses, churches, neighborhood associations. Any institution in the city could add bike stations.

Z: What has been the program's biggest success to date?

MB: The amount of usage. We've had a lot of usage, a lot a bike riding. It's worked out very well for us. Z: How has Zagster improved the lives of Carmel's residents?

MB: We all need to get more active in this country. We have designed cities over the last 60 - 70 years where people aren't required to walk or get any exercise on a daily basis. We're trying to change that in this city by going back to the way we designed cities for centuries before the car came along. A bike share is one of many components to make a city like ours work well.

Z: How has local bike sharing impacted Carmel’s economy?

MB: Zagster has helped our economy in many ways. It’s made it a more fun place to visit, made it a better place for millennials that don't want to necessarily own a car and want to be able to have alternative transportation options. It's just made it more fun for our residents.

Everything we do to raise the quality of life, including creating a bike share with a great company like Zagster, helps make this a more competitive place. A better place.
— Mayor Jim Brainard

Z: And how has it impacted community health?

MB: You don't know how many 70- and 80-year-olds I've talked to who say, 'You know, I was overweight, and I'm getting out everyday now on the trail either walking or riding the bike, riding Zagster.' It really has made the community healthier.

Z: What’s the reception been like?

MB: People were excited about it. People move here because they like our bike programs. I was talking to one man on the trail not too long ago and he said, 'We lived in another suburb about 30 miles away, but found ourselves here every weekend for a variety of reasons, the bike share and trail systems being one of them.' Finally he said, 'Let's just move to Carmel.'

Z: Carmel consistently pops up on "best cities in America" lists. Did you see Zagster or local bike sharing in general as a way to stay ahead of the competition?

MB: Absolutely. It's all about competition. It's about city design. It's about what we do with what we have — and Zagster is a part of that puzzle.

Z: How so?

MB: Everything we do to raise the quality of life, including creating a bike share with a great company like Zagster, helps make this a more competitive place. A better place. It's not just always about getting jobs, it's about making sure it's a good place for the people who have chosen to spend their lives here.

Z: What would you say to other cities that are considering local bike sharing for themselves?

MB: I would encourage them to get bike-share programs. For all the reasons we've discussed: it's healthy for the community, it creates a sense of community, it’s alternative transportation, it saves money on building roads, it’s healthier and it’s just fun.

Z: What would you say to convince the skeptics out there that think that these types of programs are a waste of money?

MB:  Number one, I’d say the city spends very little on it because of the structure that Zagster has provided.

Z: So what's next?

MB: We're going to continue to redevelop our center core into a very walk-able city, built at five levels basically with bicycle facilities in every building and bike lanes seen basically everywhere in the community.