MUSKEGON – United Way of the Lakeshore’s eighth annual Ride United bike event will take place June 15, 2019.  DTE Energy first brought the event to the lakeshore in 2012 to promote and support United Way’s health programs.  According to Christine Robere, CEO of United Way of the Lakeshore, “Ride United is growing each year, with more and more riders from outside of the area joining us to enjoy our beautiful lakeshore routes, all while making waves of change in the community.”

 Ride United is not just a beautiful ride for everyone from beginners to dedicated century riders, but a community fundraising initiative that supports local programs and families in our community.

Funds raised from individual riders, sponsors and registration fees go to programs and community members like Joey Burmeister. Joey is a person diagnosed with a learning disability who is well-known throughout the community for his volunteer work, compassion and as Goodwill’s Achiever of the Year this year. Joey has participated in Ride United for several years and uses his bike to travel around town. With so many miles on the tires, his bike was starting to fall apart.

There was rust throughout the frame, and the chain continued to fall off. Ride United volunteers like United Way board member, John Severson – MAISD’s Superintendent, assisted Joey in getting a new bike as part of United Way’s bike to work program. When Joey showed up to for the Ride United event that year, he had a brand new Rallye bike waiting for him.

 In the past, Ride United funds have been used to buy bikes for community members like Joey, who have limited transportation to get to and from work or even to school. Funds have also gone towards purchasing safety equipment for children, fixing bike trails, and health-focused programs such as the Health Project’s smoking cessation initiatives.

Ride United is proud to announce that funds raised from last year have been used toward the implementation of a new Bike Share program in the City of Muskegon.  Community members and visitors will be able to rent and explore the Muskegon area by bicycle beginning this summer. The bike share also provides an additional transportation option for work and errands.    

 “We are very excited to be rolling out a new on-demand bike share program in Downtown Muskegon.” Says Bryan Lambert, Lambert Family Agency-Brightway Insurance & Ride United Committee Member. 

The idea to implement a self-sustaining bike share program has been gaining traction over the past 12 months and thanks to the help and collaboration of United Way of the Lakeshore, JCI Greater Muskegon, The City of Muskegon, and Muskegon County, this program will be a reality.

Our hope is the revenue from this program will go towards maintaining the fleet and any additional revenue will help fund transportation solutions for guests at our shelters. A special thanks to United Way of the Lakeshore and the Ride United committee for helping to push this idea over the finish line. We look forward to seeing these bikes rolling around town this summer.”

 The bikes that will be apart of this bike share program are being shipped on May 28th and will be installed during the 2nd week of June. These bikes will be placed in downtown Muskegon at the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB)  and the Lakeside District. Both of these locations were selected due to their close proximity to the bike path, exposure to the public, and access to a hub that can provide bike helmets. The City of Muskegon Parks and Recreation Department has agreed to be the owner and responsible for the bike program, including purchasing, securing set up, maintenance, and storage of the bikes.

 The bike share program will be linked with an online application that will process payments from riders based on the number of hours used.  The Ride United Committee working with JCI and the City and CVB will set the pricing, the hours during which the bikes can be rented, and various other details to ensure a successful launch of the program. 

The profits from the rentals  will help to sustain the bike share program – maintenance costs, replacement, management and growth of more bike stations.  The remainder of the profits will help to fund a bike program for those non-profits in Muskegon County that are working to reduce the need for financial assistance for transportation needs. 

Bikes, helmets, and locks will be given to non-profits that provide programs for community members to rent bikes as transportation to work, school, appointments, etc.  This helps to offset the burden of transportation.  For some community members, this may be a long-term solution, or it may be a short-term solution for those who have a car temporarily out of service, bus route not accessible, etc.  It will be up to the non-profit to determine the rules, rental fees (if any) and accountability for the bikes given to them. 

 Those wishing to participate in Ride United can register on Facebook or visit www.ridemi.org. The registration fee is $35, with the option to purchase a wicking shirt cost for $10, or rider jersey for $75. Riders can also set up easy fundraising pages and choose what their funds will go toward including programs in education, financial stability, health, or towards the purchase of more bikes for the new bike share program. As riders fundraise, they can earn free rider gear such as a jersey, a rider cap, shorts, or Taste of Muskegon tickets. The lead sponsor of Ride United is DTE Energy Foundation, as well as century sponsors Arconic, Meijer and Nowak Machine Products. Other partners include Smith, Haughey, Rice, & Roegge, Breakaway Bycicles Muskegon, Great Lakes Dental, and Great Lakes Ford, Greater Muskegon Jaycees, 1 in 21 Healthy Muskegon, Access Health, and Taste of Muskegon.

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