Bike share in Youngstown gets rolling

YOUNGSTOWN — The city’s newest mode of transportation launched Saturday after the ribbon was cut on YoGo Bikeshare at the Youngstown Flea in downtown.

YoGo Bikeshare has 29 electric bikes that people can rent to ride around Youngstown for a nominal fee. The bikes themselves are powered e-bikes with pedal assist that engages an electric motor that can last for 100 miles per charge.

They have GPS monitoring and rugged engineering. Local businesses can rent the floor of the bicycle’s basket for advertising. Bikeshare corporations are a growing industry in America and have the potential to be an $11 billion industry by 2025, according to Kent Wallace, customer relations manager.

The ribbon-cutting was attended by community members, the Youngstown-Warren Regional Chamber, and city officials, including Mayor Jamael Tito Brown, Community Planning and Economic Development Director Nikki Posterli and 1st Ward Councilman Julius Oliver.

President Ronnell Elkins, the founder of YoGo Bikes, addressed the crowd of about 50 well-wishers.

Elkins found inspiration for the company after visiting other cities that had rental bike systems and thought Youngstown could benefit from such a service.

“That would be sweet, dope to have,” Elkins told the crowd. “Why not Youngstown?”

Bikes were only part of the picture, Elkins explained. He also wanted something positive for the community.

“I want everyone to look around and see a healthy interaction,” he said.

Elkins also wanted the company to represent the entrepreneurial spirit of the community.

“Us as a city, and us as a company,” he said. “We created this. I’m excited to be bringing bikes to Youngstown.”

And Elkins urged the audience to end the ceremony by renting bicycles themselves.

“Don’t be afraid to step out there and try something different,” he said.

“You’ve got a dream, you’ve got a vision,” Brown said, “don’t let anyone tear you down.”

In addition to the corporate innovation, Brown praised YoGo’s dedication to a sustainable future. “It’s not just for me, not just for my children, but for my grandchildren,” Brown said. “Electric vehicles are good for the next generation. I like that you are rooted right here in the city of Youngstown.”

Oliver thanked all the people who helped make YoGo Bikeshare a possibility. He praised Elkins as a man devoted to his community. Oliver and Elkins have been friends for many years, since both were high school students, and Oliver emphasized the local connections.

“This is a Youngstown man, born and bred,” Oliver said about Elkins.

Oliver also noted the possibility that Youngstown State University students could make good use of the bikes, particularly international students.

“They have not more than a suitcase and a wallet” when students arrive in Youngstown, Elkins said, and he hoped YoGo bikes would provide students with the ability to explore the city. He also praised the quality of life that YoGo’s bikes can enhance in Youngstown. “We wanted something aesthetically pleasing for the city,” Oliver said.

To rent a YoGo bike, patrons will need to download the company app to their cellphones from www.yogobikeshare.com or the Google Play app store; choose the type of account they want; scan the barcode found beneath the handlebars of the bike and go for a ride.

Patrons can then return the bike to one of three docking stations — the Youngstown Flea at 365 E. Boardman St., CycWard Bike Shop at 1205 Elm St. or at the junction of Phelps and Commerce Streets in downtown Youngstown.

YoGo offers three rates to patrons: a “Casual Ride” for $4 for the first 20 minutes and then 15 cents for each minute after that; a “Daily Rate” of $7 for unlimited rides during a single day; or an “Annual Rate” of $90 for unlimited rides throughout a season, according to the company’s webpage.

Corey Patrick, vice president of operations for YoGo, said he has worked with YoGo since he first came across the idea working for the Youngstown Business Incubator.

“My hope for YoGo Bikes is for it to flourish and grow throughout the city,” Patrick said. “I’ve lived in larger cities like Indianapolis, which has a large bikeshare program, and a lot of people are interested in it,” he said. “I can’t wait to see more people come out and use the bikes and experience the city in a different way.”

Oliver acknowledged that YoGo is the result of years of planning.

“This is something that myself, Mayor Brown, and the SMART2 plan” (a government effort to create an efficient transportation system in Youngstown) predicted and saw coming,” Oliver said.

“We didn’t know which company we would choose because we had a lot coming at us and then Mr. Elkins approached us and we said, OK, he’s from Youngstown, he was born and raised here, and we don’t have to worry about him leaving,” Oliver said. “The other companies just wanted to drop (the bikes in town) and go. We would much rather go with a local stakeholder. We already worked on making (Youngstown) more walkable and now we want to make it more ridable.”

“It’s been three years since we started this process, and now it is finally here for people to enjoy and ride and that is what I am most proud of for the city of Youngstown,” Elkins said.

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