Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Bike Life: Indiana BikePort

I had to head into downtown yesterday to do some shopping and decided that it would be a good time to try my first bike ride in downtown. One problem: I didn't know where I could park my bike. I've never had a reason to look for bike racks in downtown before, though I'm pretty sure there's one at the mall entrance by the Artsgarden.

I went to google to see if I could figure out where racks are located and came across a service called Indiana BikePort, which provides bike lockers that can be rented. Currently, use of the service is free, though a $5.95 membership is required. The webpage indicates that fees are likely to be charged for a rental sometime later this year, though they don't say how much that might be.

There are currently three locations where you can rent a BikePort in Indianapolis: the National Institute for Fitness and Sport (12 ports), the Indiana Government Center (three locations with 8, 8 and 10 ports), and the Merchants Garage in the center of downtown (8 ports). Yesterday, there were just a couple ports available at each location around 4pm, though today the vast majority of spaces are available. Bike commuters must keep their eye on the weather!

I decided to give it a shot last night and bought a membership. I was a little sketchy about how the service worked, so I decided to go to one of the Goverment Center spaces where at least I knew exactly where the ports would be located. The service is actually surprisingly easy. There are little windows on the ports so you can see if they are occupied (at 6pm, they were all unoccupied). Once you find an open port, you use your cell phone to call the BikePort service. The automated system asks you to enter your member number and then the number of the port you'd like to use and then it gives you a five digit code. You enter that code on a pad on the end of the bank of ports and -- VOILA! -- the port is unlocked for you.

The ports are diagonally shaped, which requires your back wheel to go in first with space for your handbars in front. This shape allows one port to access from the front and another port to access from the back. There are also hooks to hang up your gear inside.

I did my rounds around downtown and in the process located the ports in the Merchants Garage (the garage just to the north of the Hard Rock). The ports are directly on the other side of the the security and elevator area of the garage. If you go through the pedestrian doors, you turn right just as you enter the parking area. If you enter in the vehicle lanes, turn immediately left. A word of warning: only four ports are at ground level. To save space, the ports are double-stacked so the other four will require lifting your bike.

After I was done, I went back to the Government Center and did the same procedure to unlock the port. The process is very simple and I plan to make use of this service quite a bit, though I'll probably go to the Merchants Garage the next time. Highly recommended!


Anonymous said...

What happens if your cell phone dies? :-)

Mike said...

I had read about these a while back but hadn't really paid all that much attention. Then the other week when we had that beer at Badagumboz, in our post beer walk, Gina and I came across them at a parking garage, so I checked it out.

Anyway, looks really good - but I didn't understand the membership thing and all of that... thanks for the tutorial. Looks even better now, actually.

Anonymous said...

They oughta implement and build these "bike ports" on each leg of the Cultural Trail IMO.

beffuh said...

good job! I trust those bike ports a lot more than chaining the bike up in the open where someone can steal it. I was in ICS the other day and overheard someone saying never to use bike racks downtown (cuz stuff can easily get stolen). Glad to hear you are making it a go with your biking adventures!