Relaunched in 2021 after a brief hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Upgrade Bike Share program is a cheap and healthy way to traverse the River City for business or pleasure.
Painted white and decorated with logos from program sponsors such as Welborn Baptist Foundation, the bikes are adult-sized, so young riders may need their own wheels for a family outing. Each has a built-in bell, handle-bar breaks, and space to secure a backpack-sized item on the front of the bike.
Bikes also have a bike lock mechanism that can be affixed to a slot under the saddle to pause riding and attach to an official Upgrade bike rack to end the ride.
We took a ride on these sleek 3-gear bikes, which are parked at six locations in Evansville and one in Henderson, Kentucky. Started by the Evansville Trails Coalition in 2016, the city-wide rental program is accessible through the BLOOM Bike App and has more than 4,000 program members.
We made an account and chose the plan best for our needs. The Pay as You Go option at $3 per hour per ride was best, but residents can also choose the Student Annual Plan or Annual Membership.
Once you locate a bike, simply use your phone’s camera to scan the QR code which will unlock the bike, remove the bike lock from the station, and start your ride. Then you’re free to cruise across the city. But before you go, be sure to grab your helmet. While we couldn’t identify any specific helmet laws for non-electric bicycles, ETC recommends wearing bright, reflective clothing and a helmet when riding for safety.
“What’s great about (the program) is its versatility,” says ETC executive director Lorie Van Hook. “We’re seeing really an uptick now that it’s beautiful out and the sun is shining.”
We’re also a fan of the program’s other benefits: Anyone who uses Upgrade Bike to travel to more than 10 Downtown businesses can receive special incentives as a perk. Downtown bikers can enjoy the Riverfront portion of the Evansville Greenway, but bike lanes and paths exist across the city like the Walnut Street Expansion Project which will create a multi-use pathway from Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard to Vann Avenue upon completion.
Photos provided by Upgrade Bike Share