Indianapolis Offers Free Bike Share to All Residents

by Odochi Akwani, Writer and Content Manager

In May, Indianapolis’ bike share program, Pacers Bikeshare, became free for all residents in Marion County. This marks the first free shared micromobility program in the nation.

Data shows that accessible bike share pricing models get more people riding, but what happens when systems offer passes entirely for free? Indiana Pacers Bikeshare will soon learn the answer with the launch of their free-for-all bike share program, which saw more than 10,000 sign ups in the first month. 

Residents of Marion County can register for an IndyRides Free annual pass, which includes unlimited 30-minute rides. The launch coincides with the addition of more than 300 e-bikes to their bike share fleet. 

Last year, Pacers Bikeshare trialed a free pass program through its “Take a Free Ride” pilot program of 100 riders.

“What we saw in the pilot was that people used the pass. It wasn’t a one and done, ‘I tried it once and I didn’t use it again.’ It was an, ‘I use bike share.’ They were able to incorporate it into their daily routine, their daily habits,” says Kären Haley, executive director of the Indianapolis Cultural Trail, which operates Pacers Bikeshare. “That really gave us proof of concept that something bigger like what we’re doing now would be well received and would be utilized.”

A mix of public and private partnerships fund Pacers Bikeshare and the IndyRides Free pass program.

“We receive federal support through the City of Indianapolis in the form of CMAQ [Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality] grants to buy our equipment. We receive philanthropic support from the Herbert Simon Family Foundation and other philanthropic supporters, and corporate sponsors for the program. Then we operate as a nonprofit organization,” says Haley.

The passes extend outside of Indianapolis to include all residents of the greater Marion County in order to capture four designated “excluded cities” under Indiana law. Haley noted how it was important to the Indianapolis Cultural Trail and to the Herbert Simon Family Foundation that they were serving everybody. Speedway, Indiana, lies just outside of Indianapolis and is one of these excluded cities, but it’s connected to Indianapolis through a trail system. A bike share station is set to be put in next month near a trail serving the Speedway community according to Haley.

“The people who have signed up are coming from all corners of the county. It’s not as though it’s only people who live downtown where there’s a lot of bike infrastructure and a lot of stations. There are dots all over the map on every corner of the county map,” says Haley.

Haley hopes the free passes continue in perpetuity. Pacers Bikeshare is set to add another new station which will serve a new greenway town that goes through the west side of Indianapolis. This expansion combined with Indianapolis’ $50 million investment in trails and greenways will better connect the county in every direction.

“That’s where it truly becomes transportation for the people as we will likely add bike share stations along that network to serve people who are living near it,” says Haley.

Haley and her team hope to continue building community around bike share through group rides, which will help introduce people to this new pass.

“We are excited to learn from this and share that with others so that they can see if it’s something that’s right for their community. What is the impact that we see in Indianapolis and how can that be transferred to other places in the country? Because we all want people using bike share. We all want people riding bikes,“ Haley says. “If we remove the barrier of cost and do significant work with the community to make sure that they’re aware and comfortable and know how it works and that it’s for them — let’s see what happens and see how everybody can learn from this.”

To register for an IndyRides Free pass, visit A Marion County residential address is required in order to access the pass. Once approved, a customized promo code will be sent via U.S. mail.