A Douglas County business park has unchained a bike share program it hopes will take a bite out of the number of car trips that occur within its boundaries every day and help address the “first mile/last mile” dilemma transit users often face.
M-Bike, as the Meridian Metro District has dubbed its program, went live Wednesday. It features 50 bikes at 11 stations scattered around the Meridian International Business Center, a 1,685-acre mixed-used area roughly located southeast of the C-470–Interstate 25 interchange.
Transit-minded cities like Denver and Boulder have large bike share networks, but according to Meridian’s internal analysis, it is the first business park in Colorado — and only second in the nation — to offer a program of its own.
“Shared bikes will enhance the campus atmosphere of the Meridian complex and help tie the community together,” District general manager Eric Hecox said. “M-Bike will reduce the number of short trips in cars and provide an environmentally-friendly way to get around Meridian.”
Big-time employers like engineering giant CH2M Hill call Meridian home. There are six apartment complexes and 40 retailers there too, officials say. All told, 20,000 people spend at least part of their day there, Hecox said. District leadership performed a bike share feasibility study over the winter and received lots of positive feedback from district occupants. Meridian identified Massachusetts-based bike-sharing specialist Zagster as its preferred partner and M-Bike was born. Bikes are available to everyone who visits Meridian through the Zagster mobile app. The cost is $2 per hour. Bikes are available 24 hours per day.
“We think it will get a lot use by people who want to get out and visit some of the local retailers around the area or get a cup of coffee,” Hecox said. “There are 11 miles of bike trails within Meridian itself. Some of the feedback that we got is that a lot of people might use it on their lunch hour just to get out and get some fresh air and take advantage of Colorado’s great environment.”
The metro district has underwritten the $90,000 cost to launch the program and already has plans to double its size with a second phase in the spring, Hecox said. Right now, project partners include CH2M Hill, and the Zenith and Vela apartment complexes. Each has its own station among the 11 that opened Wednesday, and their tenants and/or employees have free bike access. Officials hope more businesses will sign up as partners in Phase 2. Along with rider feedback and user data gathered over the next few months, those partnerships will influence the location of future stations, Hecox said.
A critical M-Bike station is located west of I-25 at the Lincoln Station light rail stop. The RTD facility is a key transit hub for Meridian residents and workers. There is a pedestrian bridge that will ferry M-Bikes users and their rented rides over the highway to their destinations.
“We are delighted that far-sighted and always clear-minded Meridian business park is putting in that bicycle share system because it is major part of the solution for the first- mile/last-mile usage of the light rail and the enhancement of economic development in office park,” said Doug Tisdale, executive vice president of economic development with South Metro Denver Chamber.
“First mile/last mile” refers to the short distance between a transit user’s final destination and the nearest transit station and how the availability of options to cover that distance influence whether or not they use public transportation or drive. Tisdale said the availability of innovative mass transit systems will make Colorado a more attractive landing place for Amazon when considering options for its second headquarters.
M-Bike comes online shortly after Charles Schwab introduced an internal bike share program for the nearly 4,000 employees who work at its nearby Lone Tree office. Company officials say that program features 12 bikes with each averaging 16 checkouts per week in the summer months.