CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Building a healthier Clarksville may be as easy as a ride in the park.
Thanks to a group of Clarksville Academy students, a grant from the Clarksville-Montgomery County Community Health Foundation and a partnership with the city of Clarksville, a bicycle share program will soon come to Liberty and McGregor parks.
The Clarksville City Council approved second reading of an ordinance Thursday night to amend the Parks and Recreation budget to accept a $118,000 donation from Clarksville Academy for two B-cycle bicycle rental stations.
B-Cycle is the same company that operates bicycle ride share programs in Nashville and a number of other cities across the United States. The details of how much a membership will cost have not been set for Clarksville, but the city is working with B-cycle to get a contract in place and order the bicycle stations, said city spokeswoman Jennifer Rawls.
Once the contract is signed, Clarksville could get two stations, each with space to hold 10 bikes, and14 bicycles within six to eight weeks, she said. One station will be at Liberty Park, and the other will be placed at McGregor Park. Bicycles rented from one station can be returned to the other station, she said.
It’s just one more way the city can help encourage fitness, an initiative Clarksville Mayor Kim McMillan has been passionate about since taking office.
“This program is another step in helping Clarksvillians maintain a healthy lifestyle and have a lot of fun at the same time,” she said. “We are really happy we were able to work out this partnership to provide this service in Clarksville.”
It’s a partnership that may not have been possible without the efforts of a determined group of students at Clarksville Academy.
As part of the academy’s challenge-based learning program, students are encouraged to look at real-life challenges and then work in teams to find solutions, said Clarksville Academy Head of School Kay Drew.
Guidance counselor Denise Walker works with students who choose to work together as a team to address fitness goals. Over the past two years, a team of high school students has been working to get a bike ride sharing program for Clarksville, Drew said.
The group — made up of about eight students each year — spent one year on research, talking to a number of companies before settling on B-cycle, and then wrote a grant proposal. After receiving a grant from the Community Health Foundation, students then began work with the city to identify locations for the bike stations and turn over the money to the city. Once the program is in place, they’ll continue to monitor how often the bikes are used and study how they are making a difference.
Another group of students from the academy was responsible for bringing outdoor fitness equipment to Liberty Park in the past, and that has been so successful that they’ve continued to seek and get grant money, she said.
They’ve recently even been asked by Montgomery County Mayor Jim Durrett to possibly work on getting a grant to bring a bike share program to the county too, Drew said.
The group’s makeup may change some from one year to the next and includes students in grades nine through 12. She said the experience gives students a unique chance to make an impact on their city and go through a process that includes planning, building strategies, budgeting, data collection and giving presentations.
“I’m so proud of them,” Drew said Friday. “I think it’s just a wonderful achievement.”
Rawls said the program will be run through B-cycle, which will provide the bikes and stations, but that the city will be responsible for flat tires and other such maintenance.
People who want to participate will be able to go online and sign up for a membership, she said. Then they will go to one of the stations at one of the parks and use their credit card to take out a bike.
If the program in Nashville is any indication of what to expect in Clarksville, riders probably will get to pick daily, weekly, monthly or annual memberships. Nashville B-cycle members get the first hour free but then pay $1.50 for each additional 30 minutes that a bike is out. That’s to encourage frequent ridership with a high turnover, according to the company’s website. They also can get a 24-hour membership by paying directly at a kiosk.
B-cycle will keep all membership fees, and the city will keep the rental monies to help pay for maintenance, Rawls said.
Drew said students hope to see the ride share program in place by fall.
Stephanie Ingersoll, 245-0267
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