The Biggest Bike-Share Beneficiaries Won’t Be Cyclists

This column on the “super-users” of Boston’s Hubway bike-share system was a breath of fresh air after reading some of our local NYC coverage depicting bike-share planning as a raging conflict between car owners, pedestrians, and bike advocates.

Writer Jonathan Simmons does a quick profile of the Hubway customers who use the system more than anyone else:

With Hubway set to reopen next week, I was interested in hearing from the Gold Club riders (the 6 men and women who logged the most trips on Hubway) about their experience with biking around town. Here’s what I learned.

To begin with, none of these Gold Club members are what you’d describe as a “hardcore cyclist.” Typical of the group was Andrew Schwartz, who prior to joining Hubway had not ridden a bike in years. Likewise, Caroline Fridmar (who racked up 166 trips on Hubway last year) is a self-described “casual cyclist” who likes to pedal from her home in the North End to her job as a concierge at the Ritz Carlton. Hubway bikes are so comfortable that she often wore high heels and a dress for her commute.

Here’s the thing about bike-share: Whether you consider yourself a cyclist or not, it provides a convenient way to make trips in a city environment. In fact, the people who get the most out of bike-share are the subscribers who have no bike of their own. You can have an unlimited Metrocard and still get a lot out of bike-share — using it to make trips that start or end where the transit system doesn’t go. You can own a car and still get a lot out of bike-share — making short errands without the hassle of searching for parking.

In some ways, the same goes for bike lanes and bus lanes too. They’re not only for the people who already bike and ride the bus. They’re for the would-be cyclists who need the streets to be safer and the would-be bus riders who need bus trips to be speedier in order to switch modes.

Bike-share is going to make it more obvious that providing new transportation options is not a zero sum game where one interest group has to lose in order for another to gain. Once the system goes live, the biggest winners are going to be New Yorkers who aren’t cyclists.

  • MTL-NYC

    Spot on, Ben. As a Montreal cyclist with my own bike, I rarely use Bixi, but I certainly benefit from it in a number of ways, including the occasional Bixi trip I take and a general increase in visibility for cyclists. Perhaps the biggest benefit of Bixi, though, is that a ton of people have at least tried it out or use it occasionally. This is a massive psychological shift, which has turned biking into a very normal and accepted means of transportation here. It also creates a vast constituency of “non-cyclists” that supports improved cycling conditions here.

  • Killer Cars

    What “hardcore cyclist” would use one of those ugly city bikes anyway?

  • Bike Share fan

    My favorite quote in the Boston story comes from a young woman leaving the US for a stint in the Peace Corps:

    “I almost didn’t go because I didn’t want to give up my Hubway
    membership. Wherever I live when I come back to the U.S. it will have to
    have a bike share program.”

    Our elected officials and local media have to get with the program.  Bikes and bike share programs make cities desirable places to live.

  • Larry Littlefield

    People coming in on express buses, commuter rail, and ferries could be the biggest winners of all.  The subway takes you right to your destination in the CBD.  Those other modes do not.

    I would also expect bikeshare to be a gateway drug to bicycle ownership.

  • Who is a cyclist? Someone who owns a bike? I agree that NYC bike share will benefit everyone – by the way who is the sponsor going to be?

  • Any updates on the date for the system debut, or some of the exact locations?

  • Glenn

    To further extend the point, why should a elderly / disabled person support bike share when they will never use it? Because that’s opening up more seats on the subway/bus taken up by healthy / fit people.

  • Steve Hoyt-Mcbeth

    Don’t forget that the vast majority of bike share members in Minneapolis and Denver own a private bike. Obviously, just because you own a bike doesn’t mean you actually ride it, but people who already bicycle benefit more from bike share then they envisioned.

  • @14a8960ffa19c6b0ffff4264aba1f641:disqus I’m a “hardcore cyclist” and when I travel and can’t bring my bicycle, share bicycles work great.  We’re not all snobs, you know.

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