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Readying to roll: YoGo Bikeshare to launch a new way to get around downtown Youngstown

  • YOUNGSTOWN — A startup mobility company is rolling toward its launch of a new mode of transportation downtown — one they say will provide residents and visitors an inexpensive, healthy way to navigate the city.

    YoGo Bikeshare plans to deploy 30 electric bicycles available at multiple docking stations starting in March, but that’s just the beginning, its operators said.

    The objective is to eventually unleash 80 bicycles across all sides of Youngstown.

    The growth plan also includes entering communities in Greater Youngstown, too, such as Boardman, and perhaps working with the region’s mass transit provider, Western Reserve Transit Authority, to create a transportation spoke for that agency.

    It would be “where you can bike to the bus station and dock your bike there and ride on the bus,” said Ronnell Elkins, president.

    “We have seen that work in other areas as well, so we’re excited to try to implement a couple things and work with the transit authority here to create this ecosystem for everyone to utilize,” he said.

    The growth plan is 10 percent per year, “something that is very doable” and the objective from the start, said Kent Wallace II, vice president of operations.

    “Based on what we have seen in the bike- share industry as a whole, it is kind of the pace that it is taking,” Wallace said. “The bike-share industry is growing right about 10 percent right now. It will probably be about an $11 billion industry by 2025.”


    Bike sharing — a new concept to the Mahoning Valley — is a method of transportation that allows users to rent a bicycle for a short time.

    For YoGo Bikeshare, users can rent a bicycle at a docking station through their app, ride to the destination and park the bike at another docking station.

    The company has tiered subscriptions, from the $90 annual subscription that gives riders 30 minutes with unlimited rides, to the casual rider that costs $4 for 20 minutes, and the daily rate in between for $7.50 for 20 minutes with unlimited rides in an eight-hour day.

    Each tier offers first-time riders a free trial ride up to 20 minutes and fees up to 15 cents per minute for overtime charges.

    The company received concept approval from the city’s design review committee in early August to install the bicycle charging stations.

    Four docking stations are planned: at Youngstown Flea, 365 E. Boardman St.; CycWard Bike Shop, 1205 Elm St., near the Kress lot; 111 W. Federal St., and at the corner of Champion and East Federal streets.

    Elkins said all of the bicycles, which cost between $1,500 and $2,000, are in hand; Cycward is assembling them. The docking stations should arrive soon.

    On Thursday morning, Elkins and Wallace rode through downtown on Federal Street from Youngstown Flea to the WRTA station at the intersection of Fifth Avenue. No fewer than six people stopped them to chat, curious about the bicycles and bike sharing.

    That happens all the time when they have the bikes out, they said.

    It’s “how do you get these?” or “where do you rent them from?” that starts the conversation, which leads into how bike sharing works, Elkins said.

    The bicycles are heavy, weighing about 70 pounds each. They are built that way intentionally, Elkins said, to withstand the daily wear and tear of constant use. Each will get about 100 miles on a single charge, and are equipped with GPS monitors and pedal-assist, which provides power from a motor to help pedal easier.


    Elkins was in Washington, D.C., in 2017, and used Capital Bikeshare there, and wondered if the concept would work in his hometown.

    He returned and told his dad, who did a bit of research and would talk on and off that “we should do something like this, bring something like this to Youngstown,” Elkins said.

    Time passed and nothing materialized until 2019, when Elkins and his brothers, Wallace II and Paris Wallace, and their father, Kent Wallace, as business partners started in earnest researching bike share companies.

    Elkins said they connected with the Youngstown Business Incubator, which steered them to Valley Economic Development Partners for funding.

    Valley Partners loaned the company $174,000 in startup capital. Also, all four partners contributed some of their own money to start.

    “That was a huge momentum boost for us because a lot of times when you take on these endeavors one of the hardest things to achieve is to try to get funding,” Elkins said. “For us to receive that pretty early on, it was an appreciation to what YBI helped us out with in terms of the preparedness we had to have to go into something like this. To see it come together was great for us.”

    Elkins and Wallace II say bringing this ride share program to Youngstown is huge, in part because it’s their hometown and because they are the first to do so.

    It also goes toward changing the mindset and identity of Youngstown being an old steel town and to a evolving and innovative community.

    “I’m not saying we are going to change the overall outlook of Youngstown with bikes, but it does give people the mindset of saying, hey these guys are doing something different that we haven’t seen before, how do we add on to this, how do we complement what they are doing?” Elkins said.

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