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Welcome everyone, and thank you for being here on this grand occasion! 

Bloomington Bikes. It’s a pleasure and an honor to celebrate this day with our friends at IU who share our commitment to bringing this tremendous asset to our community, especially Provost Lauren Robel, Bill Brown, director of the  Center for Rural Engagement and longtime Sustainability Director, and Transportation Demand Management Coordinator and Bicycle Manager Kevin Whited, the IU Transportation Working Group, and Kent McDaniels, a long time bike share supporter.

I also want to acknowledge the city’s Department of Economic Sustainability and Development, for recognizing the great value of this viable transportation alternative to Bloomington, for everyday commuters, occasional riders, and visitors.  Alex Crowley, the director of ESD, Autumn Salamack, assistant director for sustainability, bike coordinator Beth Rosenbarger, and consultant Jane St. John have put a lot of research, ingenuity, and planning into this venture, which promises to take cars off the road, at the same time enhancing our city’s accessibility, environmental integrity, aesthetic appeal, and our residents’ health outcomes.    

Many thanks also to our partners at Pace Bike Share, which has worked with us to design a program that works for our community--especially Dave Reed, Kirsten Walters, and Karl Alexander, who is here today and will be demo’ing the bikes at the end of today’s ceremony.  I would like also to acknowledge the many stakeholders who contribute to our city’s thriving cycling culture -- Bloomington Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Commission, the Bloomington Bike Project -- part of the Center for Sustainable Living  -- our many bike shops and all the dedicated members of the biking public who participated in the open houses and planning process. 

As it happens, this bike share launch marks not only the Bicentennial of our city, but also the bicentennial of the first modern bicycle.  Since Baron Karl von Drais patented the design of his “Laufmaschine” in 1818, the bicycle has served to focus and nurture the spirit of innovation.  We need only to remember that the Wright Brothers extrapolated from the bikes in their Ohio workshop to soar above the dunes at Kitty Hawk.  

Bloomington bikes. In 2014, the League of American Bicyclists named Bloomington a gold-level “Bicycle Friendly Community.” But we’ve known that for a long time. The Little 500 was already in full swing by the time I was born here, and as a kid decades ago I used to ride all over town, biking to Bryan Park to play tennis and swim with my buddies. We all know Breaking Away caught the world’s imagination about our bike-loving culture nearly 40 years ago. During law school some friends and I would ride the Hilly Hundred every October.  It was such a magical experience that we kept meeting for that weekend eleven years in a row, even after we’d gone our separate ways. I know so many have special memories of biking in Bloomington, and more are made every day.

And maybe as you’ve traveled to other cities over the last decade or two, you’ve noticed these monochromatic fleets of bikes in racks, and how many people are using them.  And the people riding aren’t all athletes or spandex-decked devotees, but regular people getting around town, sometimes with kids.  I’ve taken a bike out a time or two in those cities, and realized what a handy thing bike sharing is when you want to cover more ground than you can comfortably do walking, while getting a little fresh air and not having to go underground or get stuck in traffic. 

But whether you’ve got bikes in your blood, or you’ve never even heard of the movie “Breaking Away,” I’m betting this bike share will win you over.  Because over the last decade, bike shares have gotten smarter and easier to use. Our bikes are going to be located all over town, not just at dedicated racks.  You’ll be able to locate a bike quickly, using your phone, which you’ll also use to unlock the bike, and pay for it, with a one-time fee or monthly subscription.  This is a system that will serve your needs whether you plan to use a bike every day or grab one once in a while, just to get across town.  The convenience makes it easy for us to ramp up our activity level and reduce our carbon footprint.   And the data that these bikes will gather about how much and where they’re being used will inform decisions about expanding the fleet.  Once again, bikes are doing much more than transporting our bodies through space -- they’re propelling our ideas about the way we want to see our city grow.  

And as bike share systems have been getting smarter, Bloomington’s bike path infrastructure has been ramping up too.  Today’s rider has a lot more options than I did as a kid on my Schwinn.  From dedicated bike/ped paths like the B-Line Trail to neighborhood greenways with marked bike lanes, Bloomington has made a concerted effort to create safe, pleasant routes for bike commuters and recreational bikers alike.   Last year, several Saturdays in the summer saw as many as 1,000 bicyclists on the B-Line.  As of 2014, 75 % of Bloomington’s arterial streets had bike lanes, which places us very close to the League of American Bicyclists’ platinum level.  Our very newest streets, the 2nd and 3rd street bridges over I-69, are getting brand new bike lanes.  

This connectivity helps increase bicycling.  According to data from the U.S. Census, Bloomingtonians bike more and drive significantly less than national and state averages. And the curve keeps moving in the right direction. And today will help!

You can continue to weigh in on our transportation options, as we revise our city’s larger transportation plan, and continue to emphasize increasing our walking, biking, and use of public transportation. Good for our community, our health, our souls!

Finally, partnering with IU for this bike share is setting it up for success.  The seamlessness of the territory the system covers is not only logistically advantageous, but also symbolically important.  Almost 40 years since Dave Stoller and his Cutters won the Little Five, town and gown are heading out for another ride together.  

Many thanks to the university for joining us in this effort, and especially to IU Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel, whom I present to you now.

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