As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold, the U.S. will begin what President Trump has called the "toughest week" of the crisis yet. That means that extra care should be taken to adhere to the social distancing practices that millions of Americans have been following already. But for those people in Detroit who rely on public transportation to get around during this time, social distancing can be a challenge. That's why MoGo, Detroit's nonprofit bike share organization, is offering free monthly passes for people who need to get around safely during the coronavirus pandemic.
"[With any of our passes] you get an unlimited number of free, 30-minute trips," said Founder and Executive Director of MoGo Lisa Nuszkowski. "We've always thought of bike share as serving a wide range of people and a wide range of needs. So [whether] it's using bike share as transportation right now and helping you make that one trip a week to the store to pick up some things that you need, whether it's helping you get to your job if you're an essential employee and you're still going to work, we want to make sure that that remains available to people."
MoGo currently offers nearly 500 bikes across 44 stations in the city. Nuszkowski said that MoGo is designed with flexibility in mind, so users of the passes should be able to use the "fluid" system as often or as little as they like.
"Bike share is about going from point A to point B," she said. "So checking a bike out from a station, riding it where you need to go, checking it back in, doing what you've got to do, and then you can check another bike back out to go somewhere else, or you could take another form of transportation."
Nuszkowski added that daily cleaning procedures have been ramped up during this time, too, in order to ensure that MoGo's bikes and transportation vans are being disinfected.
"So, as our team is going out and adding bikes to stations that may be getting empty, or moving bikes from stations that may be getting full, they're also wiping down the high-contact touchpoints on those bikes and stations: think handlebars, seats, the docking points where the bike locks into the station, the kiosk where people may be touching it," she said. "They're wiping all of those down with disinfectant to make sure we're doing as much as we can to keep people safe."
Nuszkowski said she's excited that passes can be purchased for free on the Transit app, because that allows users to avoid contact with the payment portion of existing bike stations, which could open up another avenue for infection.
"You don't have to touch the touchscreen altogether, you could just use the Transit app to get a code to unlock the bike," Nuszkowski said. "So if people are feeling uncomfortable about that, it's a way to minimize contact. That's something we encourage people to use as well."
But above all, Nuszkowski encourages anyone using MoGo to get around the city to use common sense.
"We're doing our best to make sure that everything is clean and safe, but we can't guarantee we're wiping down every bike after every single ride," she said. "So we encourage people to continue the practice of washing your hands when you get home and exercising caution there. We're doing our best to keep things clean and safe for everyone."
When asked how long these free passes will continue, Nuszkowski said MoGo is taking a wait-and-see approach.
"We want this to be useful and helpful for people, so as long as it's useful and helpful during this part of the crisis we'll continue to offer it and just monitor the situation and make that call as we get more information," she said. "Bike share is active transportation, so when you hop on a bike you're getting some physical activity, and it's healthy for you physically, it's also, dare I say, healthy for you mentally. You get out, you get some fresh air, get a chance to be in different parts of the city, you can see other people while maintaining a safe distance. … Hop on a bike, get out there and get active."