As the day drew to close as far as the convention was concerned and all the work was done, I decided to check out Indianapolis’ new bike share scheme. It costs $8 for a 24-hour pass but you have to put the bikes back into a docking station after 30 minutes. There are plenty of docking stations dotted around the city and every docking station offers maps showing exactly where they (and you) are.
The bikes are bright yellow and have panniers at the rear and a basket at the front. As I had my laptop and a few other things, I used both the panniers and the basket, unhooked a bike and then headed off on the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, a kind of cycle path around the city that takes riders through what can only be described as some of the nicest parts of this city I’ve seen. The weather was good too: sunny, blue skies, very summery, and as soon as I’d mounted the bike I felt good about life.
It was around 17:15 when I set off and, theoretically, I should have returned the bike to a docking station after 30 minutes had elapsed, but I was uncertain what happened after that; would I be able to take out another bike in order to reach home again? Eventually, I had to ask and was told that you simply re-dock the bike and then re-insert your credit card and you can take it out again. I was also told that if you go over they charge you something like $2.00, which is a fair cop. I’d been riding for about 50 minutes, but I wanted to dock my bike back in the docking station from where I’d taken it, so I’ve taken the excess fee on the chin as I didn’t really want to mess about too much.
The trail was fantastic. First of all, it was safe. Second, being a lovely day, and given that there was plenty of green space around, I loved every minute of it. The bikes, incidentally, were easy to ride. They had three gears, controlled on the handlebars, and they were very stable too. If there was a problem it was the constant stopping and starting as the trail crossed busy roads like Washington, New York and Michigan. The problem here was that the lights never seemed to change or they would take an age and I found myself edging out on to the tarmac when I saw a break in the traffic rather than wait, which was a little frustrating.
The trail took me past museums and an interesting sculpture – or possibly it was an art ‘installation’, although I’d rather call it sculpture – of some caribou crossing a stream and then onwards, past university buildings hemmed in by green space and then some pleasant-looking houses and a canal on which pedalos could be hired. I eventually turned back on myself and followed the road back to my original docking station where, 50 minutes or so later, I re-docked the bike. It was almost 6pm.
Having riden bike share schemes in Montreal (twice) and in Essen in Germany, not forgetting San Antonio in Texas, I think it would be fair to say that the best ride (and possibly the best bikes) award goes to Indianapolis. It was a real pleasure cycling around the city on a pleasant and safe cycle path and hopefully I’ll get the chance to have another go tomorrow prior to my 24-hour pass running out around 5pm.