Fifth Third Bank bridges gap for Red Bike funding extension

A group of private and corporate donors have raised the money necessary for Cincinnati to continue to operate a bike-share system through at least the end of this year.

On Tuesday, during a fundraiser at Rhinegeist Brewery in Over-the-Rhine, Cincinnati Council Member Mark Jeffreys announced that Red Bike had raised the additional $50,000 necessary to reopen all of its Cincinnati-area stations as planned on May 13.

Doug McClintock, executive director of Red Bike, calls the action while Cincinnati City Council Member Mark Jeffreys records the action on his phone.
Photo by Elizabeth Mariner

Organizers said Fifth Third Bank provided the final $10,000 in gap funding needed to meet the overall goal of $500,000.

All money raised will go toward reopening the more than 70 stations closed since mid-winter due to what Red Bike described as a budget shortfall caused by the loss of a signature sponsor, combined with increased operational costs.

Red Bike’s board originally planned to shutter the stations only until spring while they worked to secure a new primary funding source. However, when they failed to find the necessary funding, the nonprofit’s leadership team outlined a plan to cease operations for good.

Following that news of Red Bike’s impending closure, a collection of community groups – dubbed the “Coalition of the Willing” by Jeffreys – came together to raise most of the estimated $500,000 needed to allow the bike-share system to continue operations until 2025.

By late March the group had received a combined $450,000 from groups such as Haile Foundation, the city of Cincinnati, Duke Energy, SORTA, Greater Cincinnati Foundation and Interact for Health. However, project partners stressed a need to raise another $50,000 by April 30.

City Council Member Mark Jeffreys (second from right) checks out the evening’s lineup of cars.
Photo by Elizabeth Mariner

Over the past few weeks, the coalition cobbled together additional funding from a mixture of corporate and private donations, including the check from Fifth Third Bank as well as money from a mixture of residents and corporate partners such as the Taste of Belgium.

Red Bike Board Chair Anastasia Mileham and Cincinnati USA Regional Chamber President Brendon Cull both praised the efforts of all those involved in the Save Red Bike effort. They particularly highlighted Market President Tim Elsbrock and his entire Fifth Third team, emphasizing the company’s commitment to downtown Cincinnati and the vibrancy of the entire urban core.

The second-place winning entry in the Pint Night Derby
Photo by Elizabeth Mariner

While the funding should be enough to help the bike-share system remain open through 2024, Red Bike’s board continues to work on a long-term strategic plan to find a permanent funding solution.

In addition to a $25,000 cash commitment to operating funds, Interact for Health offered to provide a consultant, in cooperation with OneSource Center for Nonprofit Excellence, to help with organizational restructuring. That process will involve evaluating Red Bike’s current board and staffing models.

Tuesday night’s event at Rhinegeist – Pint Night Derby, inspired by the Scouts’ classic Pinewood Derby – provided another opportunity for attendees to donate and have a little fun in the process. For a $25 registration fee, participants could create a custom pinewood racing car they could race down a 40-foot track against bike-share friends and advocates.

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