Phoenix’s bicycle sharing system, Grid Bike, is expanding into the Edison-Eastlake neighborhood as part of a push to bring healthy transportation options to more residents. In order to make biking a more accessible option for those who are unable to afford the program’s regular membership plans, the city is using a $100,000 grant from the Aetna Foundation to subsidize these costs for people living in the neighborhood who are income-qualified. Grid Bike’s unsubsidized plans range from $10 per week for visitors or casual bikers, to $20 per month for up to 90 minutes of biking each day. There is also a discounted membership option for students.
The membership subsidy is a significant move to make the bike share program, launched in 2014, more inclusive for the Central Phoenix neighborhood. Edison-Eastlake is home to three public housing developments and has a high unemployment rate. Phoenix has recently been undergoing efforts to revitalize the area and improve the quality of life for its residents, many of whom are low income. The bike share program will offer an alternative commuting option for Edison-Eastlake, which may improve access to jobs.
The benefits of this grant go beyond expanding commuting options. A 2017 survey conducted by the city’s housing department showed that most residents of the Edison-Eastlake neighborhood expressed a need for exercise programs in their area. The expanded Grid Bike program will provide an accessible exercise opportunity at lower costs than a gym membership.
In addition to the decreased cost of memberships, the Aetna Foundation grant will help to provide programming for community members to support ongoing use of the bike share. According to an October statement from the city, “The program will incorporate bike-safety education through workshops and classes hosted by the city and local organizations. Participants will receive helmets, bike lights, and other safety gear to support bicycle riding. Additionally, the program will build social capital through community bike rides, allowing participants to interact with each other through cycling in a social and friendly environment.”
The grant making organization, Aetna Foundation’s Cultivating Healthy Community Programs, is focused on reducing health disparities based on income, ethnicity, and other factors. The programs made possible with this grant will help make progress toward healthy transportation and recreation options for all Phoenix residents.