Birmingham has long been familiar with road cycling groups, and academically, I think everyone understands the positive benefits of getting outside and moving around. However, many roadworthy bikes can be a hefty investment of time, money, or both. With Zyp’s bike-sharing program, however, Birmingham could see a lot more cyclists on the road.
To explore the future of biking in Birmingham, I spoke with Michael Symes, who works as Sales and Marketing Manager for Zyp. Zyp’s concept, a bike sharing company incubated by REV Birmingham and most recognizable for its bright green bicycles scattered throughout our city.
(Aside: this was originally just going to be an article about how Birmingham can be more bikeable, but it’s pretty much as simple as making more bike lanes)
Birmingham is a pretty bikeable city. We have flat terrain and plenty of multi-lane roads. There are a limited number of roads that have bike lanes. Michael and I agree that bike lanes are the driving factor behind bikeability: they make cycling and driving much safer and much less stressful for everyone. There are a few different types of bike lanes, each needing a different space commitment and each providing a different level of safety and comfort. The lowest level of bike lane is the road itself, painted to remind drivers that yes, cyclists are allowed to be here, and to encourage cyclists to use that lane in particular. Next, an asphalt lane in between a road and street parking provides a dedicated bike lane that allows drivers to drive and cyclists to cycle at their preferred speeds. Best of all, there are bike lanes separated by a street divider (hopefully a green one)! They look good and keep people from endangering themselves or others. Good stuff.
So how did Zyp start? The idea had been floated since 2012, but it was only recently that Zyp’s founders felt it was the right time to commit. Bike sharing is, according to Michael, more convenient than trying to find parking, cheaper than paying for a spot in a parking deck, and a lot more fun than driving a car and magically catching every red light in a mile long straight line. Once Birmingham started to boom with the opening of local breweries and restaurants, Zyp was able to provide an easy way to get around and had places to get around to.
What’s the upside of cycling in Birmingham? It’s all about the community. Healthier, happier people riding electric green bikes around the city is a way of showing the rest of the world, and ourselves, that Birmingham is back and better than ever. Getting someplace slower isn’t always the best option, but being able to watch the scenery once in a while helps small businesses get noticed and helps you relax.