Bike-Share Rumors: Portland Leading the Pack

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Bike-sharing in Lyon, France

Bike-share programs are a very hot topic at the Bike Summit. Everyone is aware of how Velib has led to a huge spike in bike ridership in Paris, and they’re wondering which U.S. city will be the first to replicate that success. Based on the Q&A session at one panel, "Bicycling in Great American Cities," it seems like Portland is the best bet to get something up and running first.

An audience member asked representatives of DOTs in Boston, Portland, and New York if they’re looking into bike-share programs. Boston’s Nicole Freedman, who has basically been building a bike program from scratch, answered first: "Absolutely. Everything I’ve
researched says that bike-share is transformative." The two stumbling blocks are liability, which Freedman said can be overcome,
and funding. No system has been profitable yet, she noted, so Boston is looking at models that
could be profitable.

Roger Geller, Portland’s bicycle coordinator, said his city is looking to launch a vendor-operated bike-share system and has put out a request for proposals.

Dani Simons of NYCDOT said bike-share might be on the table once the infrastructure for a safer bike system is in place. Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives, who moderated the panel, said he’d like to see a pilot program in the East Village, but that Governors Island was the most likely place to get something set up first. "Nothing has grown cycling as fast as bike-share," he said. "We need to get one off
the ground here."

Photo: quosquos/Flickr 

  • Dave H.

    Typo: bikes hare

  • All In

    The Paris lesson is you put a ton of share (can we say “rental”) bikes out there and create a massive impact in how cycling is perceived and how cyclists are treated. The whole point is doing it in a big way. Hard to see small pilot projects doing much more than working out kinks in installation and logistics.

  • Leev

    Velibe is mass transportation, not small scale tourist rental. The Governors Island project is not a real bike share. It’s cheap rental bikes as a tourist amenity on a small, uninhabited, car-free island. All it will demonstrate it is that tourists like to ride around on cheap to rent bikes. Let’s not abuse the term “bike-share” by applying it to every bike rental operation. By this standard, there has been bike share in Central Park for decades.

  • Larry Littlefield

    The best place to start would be the commuter rail and ferry terminals. Here, a system like this could be transformative.

    Instead of squeezing on the subway to get to lower Manhattan, suburban commuters could take a bike — MetroNorth riders from GCT, LIRR riders over the bridge from Brooklyn.

    New Jerseyites have long dreamed of a direct link to GCT, before settling for the Access to the Region’s Core project, because most of Midtown’s jobs are a long walk from Penn. But it’s a short bike ride.

    Getting from the 34th Street ferry terminals to jobs in Midtown means a slow bus ride — or a quick bike ride.

    The subway and through commuter rail service options that have been dreamed up to improve these commutes would cost tens of $billions, perhaps hundreds of $billions. So they’ll never happen.

    But this could actually be done at a reasonable cost, and provide exercise. It could be a substitute for a suburbanite taking a folding bike on the train. Leave your own bike at the station, and borrow one in the city. Rains gear could also be lent out, as required.

    This is what I have realized about bikes — exercise without extra time, transportation without much public money.

  • nyc cant get go forward until they get over the H issue.
    vancouver and other cities are going the wrong way with their enacting of helmet laws.
    http://tinyurl.com/2f7c4v

  • anonymous

    Bike-share isn’t really a good substitute for subway capacity at commuter rail terminals, because the subway has to be designed to handle the peak flow of passengers, and even with all the bike-share bikes you’d ever want, when it starts raining or snowing, you can bet that people are going to be taking the subway. That doesn’t mean bike-share isn’t a worthwhile project anyway. One other place where it could be hugely beneficial is actually at outlying commuter rail stations, for reverse commuters. Destinations in the suburbs tend to be dispersed, but often not too far from the commuter rail stations, and proper transit service is hard to provide for that sort of situation. Bike share is a pretty elegant solution in that case, in a way that nothing else is.

  • ER

    Sorry, Portland and NYC- Tusla, OK won the US bike-share arms race already. Check it out:
    http://www.tulsa-townies.com.

    Also, would like to chime in that if the goal is to get more people on bikes we should stop obsessing only about commuters. Getting people on bikes at rush hour is a worthy cause, but work trips are a fraction of all trips. Why does it matter where people are going on thier bikes? Why are we ignoring the casual dressing and less-time pressed errand runners, park-goers, friend-visiters, excercise-getters, urban explorers, and tourists on bikes?

  • Hilary

    Bikes and ferries (whose stations are the greenways) are the most logical combo.

  • Angus Grieve-Smith

    Why are we ignoring the casual dressing and less-time pressed errand runners, park-goers, friend-visiters, excercise-getters, urban explorers, and tourists on bikes?

    In that case, the rise of warehouse stores like BJ’s, Costco and Sam’s Club have been a huge setback for cycling, because they’re designed for people to buy more than they can carry on a bike.

    I’ve heard from many people here in NY that they’ve bought a car, or kept a car, or plan to buy a car, so that they can shop in bulk at Costco or Fairway. I know that the economics of that aren’t likely to pan out, but they don’t, necessarily.

  • Chris Loos

    Ahem…what about DC? Our bike sharing pilot program starts this very month month.

    http://washcycle.typepad.com/home/2007/11/dcs-bike-sharin.html

    I forgive you for forgetting about DC. You are New Yorkers; it is your…way. 🙂

  • Tim

    Anyone care to address the inevitability of vandalism here? It seems like a big waste of money to implement a large scale bike share anytime soon in NYC.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Bike-share isn’t really a good substitute for subway capacity at commuter rail terminals, because the subway has to be designed to handle the peak flow of passengers, and even with all the bike-share bikes you’d ever want, when it starts raining or snowing, you can bet that people are going to be taking the subway.)

    That’s the point — the subways are NOT able to handle that peak flow either at GCT or Atlantic Terminal. So bikes could be a substitute for extending commuter rail directly to Lower Manhattan — something that the 2008-13 MTA Capital Plan makes clear we could never afford.

    The point about subway capacity and bikes in general, however, is a valid one. If bikes ever did get up to a 40% trip share, transit service was cut, and then everyone tried to get on the train when the weather turned bad, it would be a problem.

    So widespread bike commuting might have to combine with widespread telecommuting and schedule shifts in bad weather.

  • Josh

    galvo wrote:
    “nyc cant get go forward until they get over the H issue.
    vancouver and other cities are going the wrong way with their enacting of helmet laws.”

    Really? You don’t think “encourage a whole lot of people who aren’t used to biking in the city to do so” plus “but don’t make them wear helmets” equals “head injuries”?

  • Hilary

    No mention of the number of handicapped placards/licenses (real, marginal and phony) nor their abuse. The question is, with all the parking privileges doled out, how many are left? 10%?

  • rlb

    I think they’re right in initiating an NYC bike share program in the east village. It’s likely the most densely populated, poorly mass transit served (by the subway) neighborhood in New York – particularly as one goes east of 1st ave. A, B, C, and D are all two way avenues with relatively light bikeable traffic.
    Bike share hubs at the the nearest subway stops – F at 1st and houston, 6 at astor place, and L at 1st ave – would allow people from Ave C to get on a bike and get to the subway in less than 5 minutes as opposed to 10 or more. Also, east river park is pretty nice, but is extremely isolated. Instead of walking for twenty minutes from second avenue to get to the park, people could bike there relatively quickly.

  • I wonder what a profitable version of bike sharing would look like, especially since the price point of biking is already so low –

    Is it still sharing when it’s renting?

    Could the parks department run it the way it does the pools and tennis courts – $100 a year gets you unlimited access? But even then, you could buy your own Huffy, lock and helmet for that price – even assuming you’d lose one bike a year to theft or vandalism you’d come out even.

  • Chris Cotrell

    @9 I just now rode my bike home from Costco with $100 worth of food, about 20 kg. All you need is a good rack or two and bags or just a simple milk crate, and you can carry a surprising amount.

  • Shawn

    The program must address the issue of private property rights / tragedy of the commons. Hundreds of these programs have failed in communites and campuses across the country. Only when organizers take into account the problems that can arise with free-use bike systems do these things succeed. The challenge for these cities is to come up with a plan that overcomes the tragedy of the commons by using technological advancements that can track a particular bike to a particular person and have an incentive scheme that provides incentives for people to return the bikes and in good condition.

  • SandraOmyOconner

    Portland already tried this and all the bike ran off to Seattle. It will never work. Another waste.

  • Mike

    Profitable concepts have been knocked around in boulder. They are possible.

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