New bike share service rolls out in Twin Cities

By Dave Fidlin For Chronicle Media

More than 300 residents have downloaded the Zagster’s app for Bike Share 309 since its launch in March, according to Town Planner Mercy Davison. (Photo courtesy of Town of Normal)

Although Mother Nature has not done it any favors, a new bike share service has reportedly received a warm response amid chilly temperatures.

Bike Share 309 officially made its debut in mid-March after a number of behind-the-scenes maneuvers that included such logistical efforts as securing a partnership with Advocate BroMenn and locking in a contract with Zagster to offer up the service.

The town of Normal is officially spearheading Bike Share 309, though two of the six stations are located in Bloomington through a partnership with the city.

In its first month-and-a-half of operation, Town Planner Mercy Davison said 302 persons downloaded Zagster’s app for Bike Share 309 and have used the service at least once.

“The reception has been very good so far, even though the weather has been crummy,” Davison said. “The weather notwithstanding, we think the numbers have been great.”

And the numbers, Davison said, are expected to grow as Bike Share 309 gains traction. Biking and other recreational activities naturally increase as the thermometer rises. This fall, the town also is expecting ridership to remain steady when classes resume on college campuses.

Zagster, a Cambridge, Mass.-based venture capital startup, linked arms with Normal last year as a service provider was sought. Jon Terbush, communications manager with Zagster, said the company offers bike-sharing infrastructure in 150 communities across the country.

“We believe we are providing a powerful tool,” Terbush said. “People aren’t just asking for multi-modal transportation options anymore. They’re expecting it.”

The Zagster partnership was one piece of a larger logistical puzzle that had to be assembled before everything came into place in Normal.

Although the concept had been lurking in the background, Davison said the town began earnestly looking into bike sharing “about a year before we actually pulled the trigger.”

A $10,000 donation from sponsor Advocate BroMenn helped solidify plans.

All of the important components were in place last fall, Davison said.

Rather than launch late in last year’s warm-weathered temperatures, however, the town opted to hold off and give it a grand send off early this spring as people were looking to shake away the winter doldrums.

Bike sharing has typically been associated with large cities, but Terbush said that thinking has changed in recent years. Zagster, for instance, offers a variety of customized options. Some of its clients are college campuses, while others are municipalities of varying sizes and demographics.

“The first part is getting an understanding of why you’re looking at bike sharing,” Terbush said of Zagster’s first step in planning infrastructure. “We can then design a plan around that specific purpose. We work with a broad range of different communities.”

Building the bike sharing stations and providing the bikes are just one part of the equation. The other part is designing an app that is specific to the purpose.

From his perspective, Terbush said he believes bike sharing will continue to grow.

Robert Miller, vice president of operations for Advocate BroMenn, and Normal Mayor Chris Koos cut the ribbon during a ceremony to launch the new bike share service in the Normal and Bloomington. (Photo courtesy of Town of Normal)

Although the service is commonly affiliated with younger consumers, Terbush noted it has broad intergenerational appeal. Baby boomers, for instance, have begun taking advantage of it for recreation.

“This is really one part of building a community that people want to live in,” Terbush said. “Transportation preferences are diversifying. We’re living in a world where the number of people owning a personal vehicle is declining.”

From her perspective as Normal’s municipal planner, Davison offered up similar sentiments. Bike Share 309, she said, fits hand-in-glove with one of the town’s goals.

“We want people to have options as they get around,” Davison said. “Bike-friendly communities are frequently cited for their quality of life.”

Hourly rates for Bike Share 309 are $3. A $40 annual membership, with one free hour of riding, is also available.

Bike Share 309’s six stations are located at:

  • Museum Square, 200 N. Main St., Bloomington
  • Illinois Wesleyan University (Hansen Student Center), 300 E. Beecher St., Bloomington
  • Advocate BroMenn Medical Center, 1304 Franklin St., Normal
  • Connie Link Amphitheatre, 611 S. Linden St., Normal
  • Uptown Normal, 121 W. North St., Normal
  • Illinois State University (four locations), Normal: Watterson Tower, 315 W. North St.; Schroeder Hall, 100 S. University St.; Tri-Towers, 186 Adelaide St.; and Cardinal Court, 700 Gregory St.

For more details on Bike Share 309, visit







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