Bikeshare, Connecting People From Point A to Point B

Bikeshare stations are starting to crop up like crazy across the U.S. (and other parts of the country), but are the bike share systems, like D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare (or CaBi) meant to take cars off the roads? Is it meant to shift commuters from public transit to the bikeshare sytem?

Emily Badger, over at The Atlantic, writes that bikeshare may not take cars off the road, but that’s ok.

Apparently, CaBi’s got some metrics that tell you how much carbon you’ve offset by using the system as opposed to… I guess driving, but as Badger realizes, she hasn’t actually offset anything.

“If I weren’t on a CaBi bike, I’d have taken nearly every one of these trips on foot,” she says.

The metric is interesting, as it offers some idea of how your use of CaBi is benefiting the environment, but in areas where most people are probably just taking public transit or walking anyway, this metric doesn’t say anything.

Badger mentions CaBi’s member survey report, and it shows that if CaBi wasn’t available, most members would just use public transit or walk—basically what they were already doing before CaBi even showed up. Only 4 percent would drive into the city.

Even though CaBi and other bikeshares are marketed as an alternative to driving by car, I’m of the mind that the bikshares throughout the country weren’t built with the mind to take away from public transit, but to supplement.

Montgomery County, Md., is in the works to open it’s first bikeshare station in Rockville sometime in September. This will be an interesting study of how bikeshare will work in the suburbs, but looking at the map of possible bikeshare stations, it’s easy to see that it isn’t just about replacing one mode of transport with another, but about connecting people from one segment of their commute to another. In Rockville, this will likely mean getting people from the Metro station to offices near and around the downtown; getting people from the Shady Grove metro to the UMD-Shady Grove campus.

It’s not about replacing transit but offering connections to get people from A to B efficiently. It’s a supplement. (The carbon offset counter may actually be useful in Montgomery County.)

People who increasingly used CaBi also reported in the survey that they were cutting back on Metro, saving $15 per week. I guess that’s no surprise. I don’t live in the District, but since purchasing my own bike, my use of Metro has dropped significantly, saving me about $16 per week in bus fare to and from work. Of course, “saving” me money may not be quite right. It’s more like $16 I shifted towards other things, like groceries, which makes it tricky on those days I really need to use the metro, and don’t have money to add to my SmarTrip card. (That’s when you see me standing at the front, furiously shoving a bunch of $1 into the machine.)

I’m not entirely sure how people perceive bikeshares (except for maybe Dorothy Rabinowitz), but I’m hoping they see it as a supplement to existing public transit modes, rather than a replacement to walking or bus or train.

I have yet to use CaBi, but maybe once stations open in Montgomery County, I’ll try it out.

In the meantime, there’s also this infographic on Quartz, featuring the 29 of the world’s biggest bikeshare programs.

Each dot represents a docking station, and Quartz‘s David Yanofsky suggests that bikeshare systems can say a lot about how cities approach transit policies. If there isn’t already, there should be a map game where you guess the city based on its bikeshare station cluster, like the game where you guess the city based on its Starbucks locations.

Do you use bikeshare? How do you use it?

Capital Bikeshare by ehpien/Flickr

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