Have you considered a bike rental or a bike share program? Although it’s not usually the first thing people ask us when they’re looking for affordable transportation options, we’ve found that many cities in America offer low-cost bike share and bike rental programs for low income households.
Transportation is one of the biggest challenges facing low income families in America. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, transportation is the second biggest expense in an American household’s budget. This is because the cost of vehicles, fuel, maintenance, transit fares and other associated transportation expenses are all so high.
We’re dedicated to helping low income families overcome their barriers to transportation. We’ve written extensively about affordable auto repair (including DIY auto repair) and we’re always looking for legitimate vehicle giveaways like Keys to Progress.
However, there aren’t enough free vehicles and discounted auto repair programs to help everyone. That’s why I was so excited when one of our readers, Cassandra, shared this tip about discounted bike shares!
What is bike share?
Bike sharing is a clever solution to an overwhelming problem. These programs place hundreds or even thousands of bicycles around cities. For a monthly or annual fee, you can access those bikes and use them to get around town.
How do bike share programs work?
Each program has its own specific rules but basically all bike share programs work the same. You pick up the bike in one location, ride it and drop it off in another location. Some bike shares have time limits while others don’t. The exact details vary depending on the program.
Why bike share?
In most cases, this is easier and cheaper than owning your own bike. You don’t have to worry about maintenance or flat tires. All you need to do is simply unlock a bike, ride it to your destination and lock it in the nearest program location. It’s so easy!
Many bike share programs offer low income discounts.
Although some bike share agencies are small and local, there are a few that operate in many different states. Here’s our list of nationwide bike share programs that offer low income discounts.
Lime Bike offers the “Lime Access” program.
Lime Bike Share is available in most major US cities. Through their Lime Access program, they provide discounts to anyone who can prove that they are eligible for or participating in a state or federal assistance program. This includes food stamps, WIC, Medicaid or other benefits.
As of this writing, Lime is available in the following areas:
- Alabama (Mobile)
- Arizona (Mesa, Scottsdale and Tempe)
- California (17 cities)
- Colorado (Denver)
- Connecticut (Hartford)
- Florida (4 cities)
- Georgia (Atlanta)
- Illinois (Chicago and Rockford)
- Indiana (Elkhart, Indianapolis, and South Bend)
- Maryland (Baltimore and Silver Spring)
- Massachusetts (16 cities)
- Michigan (Detroit)
- Minnesota (Edina, Golden Valley, Minneapolis)
- Missouri (4 cities)
- Nevada (Reno)
- New Jersey (Keyport and Plainfield)
- New York (4 cities)
- North Carolina (4 cities)
- Ohio (4 cities)
- Oklahoma (Oklahoma City)
- Oregon (Portland)
- Tennessee (Nashville)
- Texas (5 cities)
- Utah (Salt Lake City)
- Washington (Bothell, Seattle, Spokane)
- Washington DC
- Wisconsin (Green Bay)
JUMP Bikes offers “Boost Plans” for low income users.
JUMP Bikes allows low income users to sign up for the Boost Plan, which provides up to an hour of ride time every day for just $5 for the first year! At the end of the first year, the service costs $5 per month.
In order to qualify, you must prove that you are receiving food stamps or participating in another qualifying low income program.
JUMP Bikes are run by Uber. You can find them in the following areas:
- California (4 cities)
- Colorado (Denver)
- Illinois (Chicago)
- New York (New York City)
- Rhode Island (Providence)
- Texas (Austin)
- Washington DC
For more information, please visit the JUMP Bikes website or download the Uber app.
Are there additional low income bike share programs in my area?
Quite possibly! We’re researching this series program-by-program. We’ve included what we’ve found so far in the information below. If you don’t see your local bike share program, be sure to leave us a comment and we’ll look into it!
Bike Share for All offers a $5 annual membership to low income residents of the Bay area. If you have CalFresh benefits, SFMTA Lifeline Passes or PG&E Care, you may qualify for this program. Learn more on their website!
Blue Bikes has a special program for low income people. It’s called “Blue Bikes for All.” Instead of paying $15 per month, you’ll pay just $20 per YEAR! If you have a Louisiana Purchase (EBT) card, then you may qualify. See their website for details.
Hubway is a bike share program in the Metro Boston area. Residents with MA food stamps pay just $5 per month (or $50 per year) for unlimited 60 minute trips on over 1,800 bikes across the participating region. Learn more or apply online!
Citi Bike offers a reduced fare bike share to SNAP recipients and residents of New York City Housing Authority properties. For just $5 per month, you can unlock thousands of bikes across Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and Jersey City. You can take as many rides as you want, and the first 45 minutes of each ride are included free with your plan! Get the rest of the details here.
BIKETOWN offers a discounted program for low income Portland residents. You may qualify if you have an Oregon Trail card or another assistance program. With the discounted program, you will pay just $3 per month. You’ll get the first month free through the Pay It Forward program. You’ll also get a free bike helmet! Get the details here.
On our Oregon EBT benefits post, Melinda wrote, “I work at the Community Cycling Center and wanted to let you know that we offer a 20% shop discount when you show us your Oregon Trail/Washington Quest/equivalent EBT or Medicaid card. The discount is good for new and used parts and accessories, repair services, and all bike and frame sales.”
Capital Bikeshare discounts are available for low income ARLINGTON residents only. If you sign up with one of these Community Partners, you can pay just $5 per YEAR for unlimited rides, a free Capital Bikeshare helmet and complimentary City Cycling classes!
Capital Bikeshare discounts are available through community partners and local nonprofits. If you sign up with one of these Community Partners, you can pay just $5 per YEAR for unlimited rides, a free Capital Bikeshare helmet and complimentary City Cycling classes!