CEDAR RAPIDS — Students with Iowa BIG, a project-based learning experience for high schoolers, had the first crack at the new e-bikes and e-scooters coming to Cedar Rapids and are crafting what they’ve learned into a series of educational and promotional videos to be released during the rollout of a bike share program later this month.
One will showcase how the bikes and scooters can be used to access the restaurants and other businesses in the downtown.
Other topics include “walking your wheels” on sidewalks; a tutorial on the phone application to reserve or unlock the bikes; and hand signals, parking and where to ride.
“Your parents told you to stay out of the street and stay on the sidewalk,” said Nicole Sullivan, 17, a junior. “With the bike share, you stay off the sidewalks and use the bike lanes.”
The videos will be around 60 seconds or shorter and shareable on social media and YouTube around the bike share launch on May 13.
Brandon Whyte, of the Corridor Metropolitan Planning Organization, a shared government group that represents Cedar Rapids and other communities, presented the project idea to Iowa BIG, and several students stepped up to participate.
Their job: Help educate the community about how and why to use the bike share.
“We want to show what it takes to use the bikes and how to use them safely,” said Ben Kaplan, who is serving as a professional videographer mentor for the students, helping them draft scripts and shoot video.
The program is slated to launch with a fleet of 50 electric-assist bikes branded with “Bike to Work Week” decals and 30 docking stations in the downtown area.
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In early June, the program will be expanded to 150 e-bikes — which will be branded in the blue-green colored bikes and the VeoRide logo — with 90 docking stations in the downtown area.
This summer, 20 fat tire bikes will be added to the fleet and stationed near Mount Trashmore, which added biking and hiking trails last year.
Because electric assist scooters have gained mixed feedback, 30 scooters will be available beginning in late August, timed to the start of the Coe College year, through October as part of a trial to see if the e-scooters will work in Cedar Rapids.
The cost is $1 to unlock a bike or scooter and 15 cents per minute thereafter.
Two VeoRide employees will be based in Cedar Rapids to balance the bikes across the different stations and deal with issues that may arise.
The city of Cedar Rapids reached an agreement with VeoRide, which has offices in Chicago and West Lafayette, Ind., to provide the equipment and operate the bike-share program at no cost.
Early on, city officials expected to spend $500,000 to $1 million to get a bike share off the ground.
As part of the launch — at 5:30 p.m. May 13 at Greene Square — 400 bike helmets will be given away, intended for those who don’t have a bike helmet.
The e-bikes and e-scooters can reach speeds of 20 mph and 15 mph with the electric assist, respectively, and faster under their own power. The electric assist automatically kicks in on the bike when pedaling, while the scooter has a throttle.
“It’s fun going fast,” said Kian Davis, 17, a BIG junior, in trying out the bikes and scooters.
“We argue over who gets to go first,” laughed Zacch Flor, 17, a junior.
The students say they think the bike share will be a hit.
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The electric assist could remove a barrier for people who haven’t ridden in a while, concerned about getting sweaty during their work day or tackling hills, according to those connected with the program.
The equipment has lights, and the bikes have baskets. They have an internal lock to prevent theft.
Nate Pruett, the Iowa BIG teacher, said he gets curious looks and questions about when the bikes will be available as he uses the equipment in the downtown area.
Pruett said the students are benefiting in a number of ways from the project. The city provided goals and targets but has not tried to micromanage the kids.
“The secret sauce of Iowa BIG is you don’t realize you are learning,” Pruett said, noting the project includes aspects of English, speech, government, language acquisition, psychology, sociology and other disciplines.
Bill Micheel, assistant director of community development for the city, said the work fills a community need.
“This is something we would have needed done,” Micheel said. “We were going to have to get this done anyway, so the work the students are doing truly is valuable to us.”
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