With Commuters Slow to Embrace It, Cincinnati Bike Center Finding New Niche

Tucked away beneath the Schmidlapp Event Lawn at Smale Riverfront Park is a great resource for the local cycling community. The Cincinnati Bike Center serves downtown commuters, as well as tourists and locals who may want to take a spin around riverfront parks and urban neighborhoods.

The bike center opened with the first phase of the park four years ago. Located at 120 East Mehring Way, the facility is built into the park structure at the bottom of the Walnut Street Steps, which features a bike runnel for easy movement between levels of the park, and operates in this location under contract with Cincinnati Parks.

Brady Willenbrink, who has served as the manager for the past year-and-a-half, told UrbanCincy that he is setting out to increase public awareness of the center and its many services.

While the center does not sell bicycles, it does operate as a repair shop, performing small fixes such as tire replacements and minor adjustments, or larger jobs like full tuneups and part replacements. Some cycling apparel and accessories are available for sale.

The original vision for the facility was to serve as a commuter station for downtown workers. Such an operation was seen as being similar to the famed McDonald’s Bike Center in Chicago’s Millennium Park. In fact, Cincinnati’s concept even used the same operator and hired the director of Chicago’s center to come and run the new outpost along Cincinnati’s central riverfront.

Over the past four years the Cincinnati Bike Center has signed up just 30 members – a number they say continues to grow. True to the original vision, those commuting members have 24 hour access to a secure, camera guarded space with bike racks and locker rooms. Members are also provided with 20% discounts on repairs, apparel and most other services offered at the CBC.

“They get a locker, take a shower, clean up, go to work, come back, change into their bike clothes and go home,” Willenbrink explained.

Commuters may join with monthly or annual memberships, and the option to use the station on a daily basis is available for occasional commuters or those wishing to try out the facility. Riders also can take advantage of bike valet parking in the secure space during Cincinnati Reds baseball games at the nearby Great American Ball Park. This service is open to all, not only members, and costs just $1 per bike.

It is these more temporary service offerings, however, that have proven to be most popular. Of those, none has been more well-received than the bike rentals offered at the facility.

The resounding popularity of Smale Riverfront Park has made it a day or weekend destination for many visiting the center city since it has opened. With a variety of bikes available by the hour or by the day – including cruiser, road, electric assist, kids, tandem bikes, and bikes that are driven by hand-powered cranks for free use by the disabled. In addition, the center’s small, large, and extra large ‘Quadcycles,’ which have four wheels and seat up to nine people, have been extremely popular with families and other large groups.

Taking lessons from this, the Cincinnati Bike Center has established several popular bicycle and Segway tours. These are scheduled daily along several routes throughout the center city and even extend into Northern Kentucky.

While the center’s operators are hopeful the completion of the Ohio River Trail to the city’s eastern and western suburbs will bolster commuter memberships, Willenbrink says that they will also build on their strengths by soon hosting group bike rides one Friday per month that will be open to the public.

Detailed information on those rides, he says, will be shared soon through their social media pages.

VIDEO: ‘Mobile Cyclist’ Explores Cincinnati’s Growing Bike Culture

The growth of Cincinnati’s bike culture has attracted national and even international attention over recent months. While much of the attention has been paid to the growth in ridership and use of Red Bike, less focus has been on the more intangible growth of the various support industries and groups helping fuel the change.

In the third episode of Mobile Cyclist, a web-based TV series focused on bicycling culture across the United States, host Anthony Barr explores the Queen City. In the nearly 13-minute video Barr takes viewers to a collection of bicycle friendly destinations that help shed some light on the region’s bike scene.

He first stops at Velocity Bike & Bean in Florence, where he tries some coffee and talks to the owners. Then he visits the Cincinnati Bike Center at Smale Riverfront Park to discuss how it operates, and how its bike rental services differ from those offered by Red Bike. Following that, Barr stops to speak with the ever-present Frank Henson from Queen City Bike, before making his way to Element Cycles in Hyde Park to check out their art work and bamboo bikes.

The last stop on his tour takes him to Fifty West Brewing where he learns about the Little Miami Scenic Trail and Oasis Trail, along with their bicycle friendly brew called Radler.

Episode #19: Metropolis & Mobility

On April 19, UrbanCincy and the Niehoff Urban Studio held an event titled Metropolis & Mobility: Bus Rapid Transit and Bikeways. On the 19th episode of The UrbanCincy Podcast, we bring you a panel discussion from the event, featuring Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority CEO Terry Garcia-Crews, Cincinnati Bike Center manager Jared Arter, and Parsons Brinckerhoff transportation planner Tim Reynolds. The discussion was moderated by Randy Simes of UrbanCincy.

This event also showcased student work in the areas of bus rapid transit, bikeways, and multi-modal corridors. The best student project, as voted by attendees of the event, will be showcased on UrbanCincy in the coming weeks.

Expert Panel to Discuss Bus Rapid Transit, Bikeway Planning in Cincinnati on 4/19

The Cincinnati region is rethinking the way it moves people and goods throughout the region with major investments and studies taking place on bus rapid transit, bikeways, and multi-modal corridors. The Cincinnati region will evolve, for better or worse, depending on how these investments are planned.

To help further this discussion, we are proud to announce a new partnership between the Niehoff Urban Studio and UrbanCincy that will focus on the work produced by students at the interdisciplinary design center.

The exhibits produced by the students will be judged by those in attendance at the planned semi-annual events, and followed by an expert panel discussion. The best student project will then be profiled on UrbanCincy.

Metropolis & Mobility: Bus Rapid Transit and Bikeways

The first event of the new partnership, Metropolis & Mobility: Bus Rapid Transit and Bikeways, will take place on Friday, April 19, and will include discussion about how multi-modal transportation concepts can be applied throughout Cincinnati.

The expert panel will include Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority CEO Terry Garcia-Crews, Cincinnati Bike Center manager Jared Arter, and Parsons Brinckerhoff transportation planner Tim Reynolds.

“Bus rapid transit is a new form of urban transport, already in place in many American cities that can be modeled for Cincinnati to put us one step closer to a much-needed rapid regional transit system,” explained Niehoff Urban Studio director Frank Russell.

Russell goes on to say that the discussion regarding bikeway planning will focus on three new proposals for the Mill Creek Greenway, Western Riverfront Trail, and the Wasson Way.

The event is free and open to the public, and will include an open house session from 5pm to 6pm where visitors can view the student exhibits and mingle with the panel, and the panel discussion itself from 6pm to 7:30pm.

There will be a cash bar and complimentary light snacks provided for those in attendance.

The Niehoff Urban Studio is located at 2728 Vine Street in Corryville. The event is easily accessible via Metro bus service, and $1 parking will be available at the 2704 parking structure accessible from Vine Street.