One of the biggest barriers faced by the refugee population is access to transportation. The public transportation system is not very reliable or user-friendly for our clients. For example, it may not provide routes or schedules that are convenient for certain jobs. Saving money for a car takes time, and obtaining a driver’s license is also difficult for our clients who have limited English proficiency because Tennessee’s exam is only offered in English and Spanish. Refugees with limited English skills do learn English, but takes time, especially to have the skill level to pass the exam. We rely heavily on our volunteers to transport our clients until they are able to provide their own transportation, and we are really excited about this new program that will offer transportation to our refugee clients and Memphis residents!

Recently, we sat down with Sara Studdard, the project manager at Explore Bike Share, to talk about what the Bike Share program hopes to bring to Memphis and how this service will positively impact the greater Memphis community and our refugee clients. Explore Bike Share is committed to developing a bike share program that can truly advance our city on multiple fronts: transportation, tourism, health, environment, and culture.

Explore Bike Share is in development to build a system with around 60 stations and 600 bikes that will connect the city’s downtown, midtown, and surrounding neighborhoods. Bike Share also hopes to make connections with existing greenway assets and the future Wolf River Greenway trail. Memphians would be able to walk up to a station, pay (with cash or credit card) to check out a bike, and ride for a chosen amount of time. There will be a variety of membership options from daily to longer term, all of which include unlimited mileage within a set amount of time. After your time is up, you return the bike to any of the stations, either to end your adventure or to check it out again.

Sara expressed that she believes the Bike Share program will bring the Memphis community closer by connecting fellow Memphians with each other. She says Bike Share is not only a mode of transportation, but also a tool to connect our neighborhoods and our cultural assets because people will be spending time biking through areas that they might have previously driven right through on their way to somewhere else. She also noted that there is only a short bike ride between many of the neighborhoods and popular attractions throughout Memphis.

This is especially exciting for our refugee clients. We envision them being able to access Bike Share to make it easier to get to and from work or run errands, and also to connect more with the broader Memphis community. Accessing a bicycle is a reliable and cost-effective solution for transportation that also provides the benefit of exercise and opportunities to socialize - which means that our clients can benefit financially, physically, and socially from this program. We at World Relief are very excited about the Bike Share program coming to Memphis soon.

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