DES MOINES, Iowa - There's been a boost in the number of bicycles Des Moines residents have rented to get from Point A to Point B, and that's leading to more of them.
"2016, we had over 8,000 trips taken by B-Cycles, which was a 35% increase over 2015, and that's with the same number of bicycles," said Robert Munchrath, the operations manager for Des Moines B-Cycle.
Des Moines B-Cycle came to town about six years ago. At the time, the Des Moines City Council approved for four rental bike corrals around downtown Des Moines to test the concept out.
"And slowly, the idea grew, but it wasn't being anywhere near to be used as much as it could be, with only four stations - there weren't enough destinations and places to ride," Munchrath said.
But as of 2015, that number had risen to 10 corrals. And the data show Des Moines residents are using the system. So now the Des Moines Bike Collective has gathered enough grant money to fund 10 more corrals, hoping to expand the network beyond downtown Des Moines.
"We're looking to expand further west on Ingersoll and to take it up from downtown to a connector to the Drake neighborhood," Munchrath said. "The approval that's going on right now is for the new site locations for the 10 new B-Cycle stations that we have funding for to put here in Des Moines."
The Des Moines City Council is expected to approve the measure this week. If so, you could rent a bike in downtown Des Moines and ride it to the Drake University neighborhood. Even the new Hy-Vee opening downtown next month is sponsoring a bike corral in front of its store, and Munchrath says some new apartment developments are interested in the idea for their properties, too.
"With these 10 new stations, we are looking at doubling the number of bicycles available, and tripling the amount of service area that people can reach," he said.
What's next? Des Moines B-Cycle hopes to expand to West Des Moines. A new "smart bike" will be unveiled later this year, and the concept could take off in the Jordan Creek Mall area, complete with a "virtual bike corral" to dock your rental ride with your smartphone, according to Munchrath.
"I believe this will put us on par with some other major cities that do it," he said.