In Indiana, summer means festivals, outdoor parties - and cyclists heading from one end of the city to the other to try to get to them all. When they arrive, chances are increasingly good that Pedal and Park will be there to provide a safe, free place for bicycle parking.
Pedal and Park has parked 29,694 bikes since 2001. This weekend, at the Eitlejorg Museum's 20th Annual Indian Market and Festival, the non-profit organization should hit the 30,000 mark. In light of this momentous occasion, I spoke with Tom McCain, the organization's volunteer Program Director, about the program's origins, success and plans for the future.
NUVO:What was the impetus for Pedal and Park?
McCain: There was an interest among some of the bicycling groups in town to provide bicycle parking. The idea that really took off was providing bicycle parking for the State Fair. That was our original intent. I think the first year was 1999. We did that for two years. And then, during the winter of 2000-01, a group of us continued talking and thinking we could expand this. We could do other events too. We can turn it into a full-fledged program. And then someone coined the name Pedal and Park. Tom Olsen [former Program Director] negotiated a sponsorship agreement with the Metropolitan Planning Organization to pay us a dollar a bicycle that we park. And the idea was that the organization that provided volunteers to work the corral would then get that dollar per bicycle. In 2002, we had five events. It's just basically grown from there.
NUVO: How does the "corral" work?
McCain: When somebody comes into the corral to park their bicycle, we have a registration form that we ask them to fill out. It doesn't take very long. And the volunteer works them through that. We have wristbands that are numbered with a numbered stub. So the volunteers will take that numbered stub off the wristband and tape that to the bicycle. Then they put the wristband on the person. When the person comes back to claim there bike, we match those two numbers so we know we are giving the bicycle back to the correct person. It's exactly like a coat check system.
NUVO: Why the decision to make this a free service?
McCain: Our original thinking was that it would help encourage people to ride their bikes. It was an added incentive. Prior to [the MPO] sponsorship, we did charge people a dollar per bicycle to park. When the sponsorship started, we decided that could replace people paying. We do also take donations at the events. And at some of those events we keep the donations to help defray our expenses. And that some other events, I let the group that's providing the volunteers keep those donations. Actually those $1 and $2 donations add up over time. I've seen a family of four come in and park their bicycles, and as they are leaving one of the parents leaves a $20 bill in the donation jar. For the most part, people don't object to paying a little bit for parking their bikes. It's not enough money to sustain a paid person. It's enough to pay for the materials that we go through.
NUVO: What kind of volunteer base do you operate with?
McCain: Off the top of my head, I would say we use more than 500 volunteers in a given year. They earn money that benefits the not-for-profit for whom they volunteer. It might be the near East Side Community Organization or Herron High School students, the Speedway Travel Association or the Carmel Fest folks. It spreads around to some pretty worthwhile community groups, who make some money off of doing this too. It's a win-win in a lot of ways.
NUVO: How many events can Pedal and Park accommodate?
McCain: We've got enough equipment that we can do about three events per weekend as long as we get enough cooperation from [the festival]: coming in, getting the equipment, learning how to put it up, learning how to operate the corral. With the events that we added since those basic events, I don't really have volunteers to work the corral. So what I've said in, in the last few years, is we can help you in terms of providing equipment, but that you're going to have to find volunteers.
NUVO: What plans do Pedal and Park have for growth in the future?
McCain: It's growing organically. The way I see this needing to develop is that we figure out a way to fund the program well enough that there can be a paid program director working part-time each year to keep the program going. And part of that involves the fund-raising necessary to keep the program going. The demand will continue to be there for the program. It's a matter of how we make it sustainable.
NUVO:What incentive do you have to devote so much volunteer time yourself?
McCain: I've been cycling in Indianapolis for 30 years, and it's really fun and exciting to see what's happening with cycling in the last few years here in Indianapolis. This is my seventh year as a volunteer program director; it's the thing that I like doing.
Pedal and Park is always open to volunteers and donations. To learn more about how to get involved, visit their website. Also, for a list of the events Pedal and Park will service this Summer go here.