It has been a few months since the city of Indianapolis announced its upcoming bike share program. At the time, there was a healthy discussion on our blog’s e-mail group about the potential for this bike share moving forward in the city. I thought now would be a good time to discuss the reasons I think it could be successful, as well as potential pitfalls to avoid if B Cycle wants to make this service more inclusive.
First, the positives:
- A bicycle is great for medium-distance rides. I work right downtown, and often would like to have lunch on Mass Ave or Fountain Square. Currently I either have to walk about a mile, or walk a block and a half to my car (if I drive to work that day) to drive to those locations. Bike share would help downtown workers visit more local businesses more efficiently.
- It will be cheaper than renting a car for visitors. Â The only time I’ve used a bike share was in Washington DC, and it was a huge plus to be able to expand the areas that I was visiting while being above ground. Â (The Metro is great and all, but a tourist wants to be able to see the city).
- The city could dedicate less space for parking cars around bike share stations. Â Less space for cars, more space for commercial activities or public spaces.
- It could actually encourage me to ride the IndyGo buses more often. Â Sometimes there are days when I need to make a short trip after work that is usually done by car or a long walk, but a bike share would make these trips more simple.
- One of the arguments against bike share seems to be this one: Â People can bring their own bike with them, including on IndyGo, so why do people need a publicly shared bike? Â My answer is this: I bring my 2 year old daughter downtown to daycare before going to work. Â I’m not going to be dealing with putting my bike on a bus while making sure she doesn’t get run over by another vehicle. Â And, I suppose I could put my bike on my car when I drive downtown, but Â I would have to walk a block and a half just to get to the car/bike. Â Next door access would be a nice benefit.
I’m sure that there are many other benefits, but these are a few. Â Now, the pitfalls:
- Bike Share station location is easily criticized for favoring affluent neighborhoods. Â The Daily Show did an amusing segment on the bike share that was initiated in New York City, but at the end it also makes a critical point. Â These bikes could do a lot of good in neighborhoods that are more transit-dependent and less affluent as well.
- Most bike shares are paid by credit cards, which is another issue that hinders access. Â A better way would be to also allow users to reserve the bikes and link the charges to their cell phone bills, which is a model being used by Social Bicycles in five US cities.
- Most fledgling bike shares do not provide helmets. Â Boston will be the first in the nation by the end of the month to provide a helmet vending machine.
- Not exactly a family friendly venture at this time. Â I have yet to see a bike share program with either kids size bicycles or trailers. Â This could be Â a legal liability issue for the corporations, though, so perhaps this problem will go unsolved.
I hope to hear some other positives and negatives through reader comments. Â Post away.