Bikeshare is taking North America’s cities by storm. Over the course of the last year, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing systems in Chicago, Indianapolis, Nashville, Omaha, Salt Lake City and Toronto.
I wasn’t originally a big fan of bikeshare. I think this mostly stems from how some of these systems are positioned. In Nashville, Indianapolis, Salt Lake City and Toronto, it’s mostly a downtown thing. Here in Indy, there are 27 stations, but they’re all located adjacent to the city’s compact central business district. If I was staying at a downtown hotel and wanted to get to the city’s spectacular children’s or art museums, Butler University or popular neighborhoods like Broad Ripple or Irvington, I would find no stations to dock the bike when I arrived. That’s a shame, although I suspect these cities will be expanding their systems soon.
I’ve been giving this a lot of thought because as I transition to the life of a car-free professional, I think I might be able to use bikeshare as a way of moving about when I travel on business. I can fly into a city, take the train to my hotel and then utilize bikeshare to go from meeting to meeting. Connectivity is the crux of the matter. Cities with limited networks simply don’t provide the ability for me to go where I need or want to go, and that renders bikeshare impractical at best, unusable at worst.
One place that seems to understand this is Omaha. Even though the city’s B-Cycle network is relatively small in size, stations extend far beyond downtown into the midtown area and even across the river into nearby Council Bluffs, Iowa. The system serves a large part of the metro area instead of just the core. It connects business centers and neighborhoods, allowing someone who depends on it much greater freedom of movement than centralized systems. Chicago’s Divvy does this, too, but Divvy is on a scale all its own.
Omaha’s unique because it’s a smaller city doing more with less. It’s also not sitting still. The city’s airport, Eppley Airfield, is just a few short miles from downtown…an easy bike ride. I recently reached out to Heartland B-Cycle and asked if they had considered putting a bikeshare station in the airport terminal so that someone like me could deplane, hop a bike and be on the grid immediately. It’s already in the works, I was assured. This is good, because the only thing better than a train-bike connection between the plane and business meeting is a bike-only connection.
When I get to Ogden in a few months, my goal is to live as car free as possible. That includes when I’m on the road. I’m beginning to realize that bikeshare can and should be a big part of my decision of where to travel to, and also how I move about once I get there.