Picture Barack Obama rolling down the streets of downtown Denver on a shiny new cruiser bike. Or John McCain in the Twin Cities, baseball cards stuck in between wheel spokes to make his bike sound like a motorcycle.
Though these images may not be the likeliest for one to see, thanks to the Freewheelin initiative from Humana, they will definitely be possibilities. Partnered with non-profit Bikes Belong, Humana will be unveiling its new bike-sharing program at this year’s Democratic and Republican National Conventions.
The program was originally piloted in Louisville, Kentucky, home to Humana’s headquarters. Humana is one of the nation’s largest health benefit companies, and nearly 2,500 of its employees signed up for the bike-sharing program there. The company hopes to take the momentum generated by the exposure Freewheelin will receive at the Conventions to spread it to other major cities, offering bike-sharing at college and corporate campuses across the country.
Bike-sharing has been popular in Europe and abroad for a long time now, with notably successful programs in Paris and Amsterdam that allow people to check out bikes to run errands or do other short trips. Although a few US cities have started programs, it has yet to really take off domestically. Freewheelin is hoping to change all that.
Nearly 1,000 bikes will be available later this month in Denver and in September in the Twin Cities for anyone (at least those over 18 for now) to check out and ride for free. Rental stations will be strategically situated throughout the cities, especially near the convention centers and major hotels. Bikes can be checked out via a solar powered kiosk located at every bike rack station, which will also be equipped with helmets, city maps, and even trained specialists on hand to help those of who don’t really believe in the old saying that one never forgets how to ride a bike.
Each of the bikes will also be equipped with odometers so one can measure exactly how much they have traveled. Riders can later visit personalized pages on the Freewheelin site to find out how many calories they burned and how much carbon they have offset by riding their bike instead of driving.
“The potential for this program is tremendous, as it provides answers to some of the most difficult public health problems facing our nation – how to improve personal and environmental health while at the same time reducing costs,” said Jonathon Lord, Humana’s Chief Innovation Officer.