One of the “big ideas” discussed in the Elevating Erie Ideas Competition was community bike sharing programs. Bike rental and sharing programs have started popping up all over the country and have attracted local commuters, recreational riders, and have provided an outlet for tourism. We reached out to David McKie, owner of the recently launched "Cuse Cycle," a bike sharing program located at Onondaga Lake Park, to share his motivation behind this exciting startup.
EE: What inspired you to start the “Cuse Cycle” Bike Sharing Program?
DM: The inspiration to start the Cuse Cycle Bike Share Program came from multiple sources. The concept of Bike Share is not new and seeing the success of Bike Share Programs in larger cities (like Citi Bike in NYC and Hubway in Boston) was definitely a major source of inspiration. Also, renting bikes at the Onondaga Lake Parkway for many years has provided me the opportunity to interact with the customers and listen to their suggestions, feedback, complaints, etc. Processing this information, I deduced that there was a demand to check out a bike at one location and return it at another. Taking these suggestions into consideration and researching the possibilities, I found that a Bike Share Program was the best option to accommodate the community.
EE: How does Cuse Cycle work?
DM: Cuse Cycle is entirely application based. Users walk up to the various stations, download the Cuse Cycle App on their smart phone, and follow the prompts to create an account. The user then selects a “Riding Plan” which determines how much they will be charged for the use of the bike(s). After selecting a plan, the user can rent the bike. The bikes are numbered, so the user simply selects the number bike they wish to use and the bike will unlock from the dock through Bluetooth technology. The bike connections are also solar powered, making them very eco-friendly.
EE: What are some of the unexpected challenges that you have encountered?
DM: As with any mobile application, the Cuse Cycle App has bugs that are being worked out. However, most of these issues have been resolved and we have very few problems at this point. Our customer service representatives address these problems in a very timely manner. One other challenge we have encountered is that not everyone has a smart phone. For those individuals, we recommend visiting our rental garage near Wegman’s Landing (at Onondaga Lake Park).
EE: What do you feel are some of the advantages of a bike sharing program in general? How do you see bike sharing benefitting CNY specifically?
DM: I feel that the advantages of a bike share program are numerous. It provides the community with a great alternative, not only to exercising, but also to commuting. The freedom for individuals to commute on their own terms is a great alternative to other methods of transportation. Also, the use of bicycles compared to other methods of public transportation is much better for the environment. Obviously, it will take time, but I see Cuse Cycle Bike Share benefitting CNY specifically as more stations become available so that members of the community have an alternative, eco-friendly method of transportation; potentially they can get wherever they need to go without harming the environment whatsoever.
EE: You started the program at Onondaga Lake Park. Do you see any opportunities to expand along the Erie Canalway Trail; where else do you see it going?
DM: The short answer to this question is a resounding “YES!” The Onondaga Lake Park was a great place to start the bike share program because we have been renting bikes at the Parkway for over twenty years and have established a strong relationship. Our relationship with Onondaga County Parks is what facilitated the implication of the bike share. Unfortunately, expansion to other areas including the Erie Canalway Trail and other areas is not that easy. Cutting through the “red tape” is always an issue and it takes time. Having said that, I would like to expand the bike share along the Erie Canalway Trail, among other places. In fact, my original vision for the Cuse Cycle Bike Share was to cover the entire Erie Canalway Trail and I do not want to stop there; other areas I have considered include the City of Syracuse (specifically the University), Sylvan Beach, et al. Basically, anywhere that could benefit from a bike share program I would like to offer our services to.