While attending Camp What If in 2014, Abby, Devin, and Alexis had an idea. What If Stark County had a bike lending program that would give anyone who needed it access to better transportation, exercise, and recreation?
And, they thought, what if it could all be free?
After seeing the Canton area and its people who couldn’t always get rides to work, get decent exercise in the city, or couldn’t afford a bike, they knew something could be done. They met with a city engineer who discussed how bicycles and city street infrastructure works. They brainstormed, they talked, and then they took a tour of the Stark County District Library – the Smart Store, where everything is free.
If everything is free at the Smart Store, couldn’t bikes be free there, too? The answer? Yes!
Gabby, Devin, and Alexis along with TomTod Ideas staff met with Stark County District Library administrators, Canton Parks and Recreation, and Stark Parks to launch the idea into a reality. After much discussion, planning, and strategizing, Gabby, Devin, and Alexis handed the idea over to the three cooperating departments, and BikeSmart was born.
Utilizing the services of Zagster, a bicycle sharing company, and Ernie’s Bike Shop, BikeSmart now has six hubs in the Stark County area and provides free bike rentals to Stark County District Library card holders, and everything is managed on your phone through an app.
BikeSmart was awarded first place in Management Innovation from the Ohio Parks and Recreation Association (OPRA). The program was also a top three finalist (out of an original field of 14 entries) for the prestigious 2015 OPRA Governor’s Award for Parks and Recreation. BikeSmart and the Stark County District Library were also honored with the Library Innovation Award from the Ohio Library Council, for having “a significant impact on the community” and partnering with outside organizations.
Thanks to middle schoolers Gabby, Devin, and Alexis, the Stark County area now has a free bike-sharing program accessible to all for a better, more reliable, healthier lifestyle.
Check back soon for more amazing stories of middle schoolers taking action!