Rybak, Coleman unveil community bike program

In a move fitting with the Twin Cities’ focus on taking a “green” direction, mayors R.T. Rybak and Chris Coleman at a news conference today unveiled an initiative to get people around without their cars during the Republican National Convention.

Developed and sponsored by health organization Humana, the program — called “Freewheelin” — will bring 1,000 bicycles to the cities for anyone to use for free.

Solar-powered kiosks will be stationed throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul during the convention, which will be Sept. 1-4. People will be able to take bikes from these kiosks, travel anywhere and drop them off when they’re done. The only requirements will be online registration and a credit card number — not to be charged, but to hold people accountable when bikes are damaged or go missing.

“It’s as easy as borrowing a book from a library,” Humana Vice President Lisa Tourville said during this morning’s conference.

The bikes will also be equipped with computers to track such data as mileage and carbon offset, all of which users will be able to track online, Tourville said.

Rybak emphasized that the program would not end when the Republican National Convention is over. Humana has already committed to leaving behind 70 bikes, Tourville said, and the mayor said he would spend this afternoon meeting with Humana representatives to discuss expanding the program by the time next spring rolls around.

As for during this year’s convention, exact kiosk locations are not yet known, but Rybak said he’d like to see them at such locations as City Hall, the Walker Art Center and Nicollet Mall, “so if you’re on one end of the mall and you want to grab a bite to eat, you can just hop on a bike and go to the other end.”