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Louisville is rolling out a bike share system this year that will place some 300 bikes across Downtown and nearby core neighborhoods (help choose where they go over here). While the city determines the logistics of implementing the system, let’s look at one of the challenges that has faced other systems across the country and how one city is fixing it: equity for the unbanked.

One of the obstacles of creating a truly equitable system accessible to the entire community, not just those with bank accounts or credit cards. The challenge with opening bike share up to everyone, though, is that traditionally a credit card is used to place a security deposit on the bike to protect against theft. Traditionally, there’s no option to check out a bike with cash. StreetsBlog’s Tanya Snyder reported last week that Arlington, Virginia is trying out a cash payment system:

This will be a departure from standard practice, where credit or debit cards act as insurance against stolen bikes. In the typical bike-share payment model, if a bike disappears on your watch, your credit card gets charged $1,000. The $7 monthly membership fee Arlington plans to collect in cash at its Arlington County Commuter Services ”Commuter Stores” will provide no such guarantee. The county appears to be willing to trust its residents enough to take on this risk.

DC has developed its own solution to the problem of making bike-share accessible to the unbanked, but it involves signing those people up for bank accounts, not checking out bikes on the honor system.

Arlington isn’t the only place to take on the risk of renting out bike-share bikes without a mechanism to recoup the costs of a lost or stolen bike. Boston’s Prescribe-a-Bike program lets doctors give out free bike-share memberships to patients who need more exercise, and there’s no credit card required. Denver and Minneapolis only check the person’s “credit-worthiness” to determine whether they can pay the fees but don’t require a credit or debit card to be on file.

Could Louisville take efforts to implement a similar system to open up the city’s bike share system to the entire population, including the unbanked? What do you think? Read the entire article at StreetsBlog.

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