pictured above (l to r): Jason Williford, Andy Nix, and Megan Klein
It can be tough getting around Shelby County at the best of times. And when you don’t have a vehicle of your own? Well, a trip to the grocery store via bus could take three to four hours round-trip, and getting to and from work at a reasonable hour might be impossible. But Juice Plus+ CEO Jay Martin didn’t think that was acceptable.
“Transportation is a tough issue for us in this town,” says Martin, “and we don’t seem to have the public transportation that we need.” He took a deeper interest in the issue while working with the technical training center at the Boys and Girls Club. While it helped many high school graduates find jobs, many were unable to continue since they couldn’t get to work in a reliable manner.
Jay settled on scooters as a solution and gathered his team. Andy Nix, Megan Klein, and Jason Williford came aboard to get My City Rides off the ground. A little over a year into the venture, the organization already has more than 100 vehicles out on the road. Executive director Nix had to persuade SanYing Motors (SYM) to let My City Rides become an official distributor, but the Memphis nonprofit has become the largest dealer of SYM products in the country.
“It’s a three year commitment,” says Nix. “It’s essentially a transfer of ownership. The cost per person is $90 a month, and that covers basic training, licensure, insurance, maintenance, vehicle security equipment, and gear.”
SYM’s Fiddle III scooter model is 169cc, and can cruise up to 60-65 miles per hour on regular roadways. The two-gallon gas tank can get up to 89 miles per gallon. For an average vehicle, it would cost 79 cents to operate, but the My City Rides scooter only costs 14.
While scooters help reshape the local transportation landscape in Memphis, Klein, the director of flyer operations, says participants in the program are also coming together as their own community. “We had two women who built up a squadron of riders,” says Klein, “and they had such a good time leading and bringing in others. That also means that beyond us, we have trusted riders looking out for newer members of the program.”
Retired MPD detective Jason Williford joined the team as a volunteer, and now oversees training as fleet director. “We run them through Tennessee laws and everything they need to know to pass their written exam at the DMV,” says Williford. “And our other goal is to actually get them on the scooter, because if they’re making a three-year commitment, we want to make sure they can ride it around safely.” He’s brought in former or current law enforcement officials to help with instruction.
So far, My City Rides has had 93 percent retention for those who sign up. In addition to the 128 bikes on the road, there are 80 more in the pipeline, which puts the total closer to Nix’s goal of 225 by the end of 2019. If they reach that, it means they’ll have upwards of 400 available scooters. “But ultimately,” says Nix, “we’d like to see over 1,000 bikes out on the road.”
Nix is happy to see alternative methods of travel available to Memphians. “Not everyone has access to a reliable car. The new programs we have are great, and they raise awareness that there are other ways to get around.”
Martin still feels compelled to push forward. “There has been progress by local government and others, but we still feel like there’s a real need for more options. So we wanted to take it into our own hands and create something. Really, it just comes down to doing something for the city.”