Bike Share Redux

I posted an entry earlier this month that questioned whether or not bike share systems were the best use of scarce resources for cities and towns who want to encourage cycling.  The post touched on data from Streetsblog that suggested the only bike share system in the US that has really grown in terms of ridership over the last three years is in New York City.

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Now I’ve discovered a map from the US Department of Transportation that shows the relative size of bike share systems in the United States in terms of number of docking stations. This is important because docking stations equal convenience.  The more stations a system has, the more likely it is that they have one wherever it is we’re going and that makes the system more viable as a transportation tool.

The map is very revealing.  While it was no surprise to me that New York, Chicago and Washington DC dwarf all other systems in terms of size, it might be surprising to casual observers to see that both the Twin Cities (MN) and Boston have oversized reach vs. peer cities like Denver or Seattle.  All are cold weather cities with lots of winter but these two systems clearly are all alone in the second tier. Although I know that NiceRideMN is a world class system, I’m not familiar with Boston’s Hubway.  Based solely on this graphic I really need to get back to Beantown and check it out.

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MR Bikeshare…not a lot of bikes but loads of parking options.  Hailey and Ketchum are about 12 miles apart and connected via a bicycle/pedestrian sidepath along a major highway.

What I found most interesting were the apparent anomalies on the map.  Take Boise vs. Hailey Idaho, for example.  Hailey encompasses a region in central Idaho that includes the Sun Valley ski resort.  They don’t have a lot of bicycles but they sure have a lot of docking stations.  Their MR Bikeshare system is run by MountainRides, the same people who run the buses.  I think this is smart because it leads to decisions that are transportation instead of tourism-oriented.  Their system is cleverly designed and shows that even small communities can successfully integrate bike share into their transit mix. It’s all about docking stations.

I was surprised to see that bike share isn’t that big of a deal in cities like Denver, Portland and Seattle.  These aren’t tiny systems by any means…just not as large as I would have expected.  Maybe it’s because more people who live in these places own bikes.  Maybe it’s something else that I’m not aware of.

I like the idea of using a combination of bike share and transit systems instead of renting cars or even Ubering while traveling.  I’m a bike guy and I’m not going back to the old ways.  Based on this map, I’ve discovered some places I’d really like to visit…places I hadn’t thought of previously.  Conversely, there are a number of big cities (Atlanta? Dallas?  NOLA?) that seem to have fallen off the grid completely.

On a personal note, Jan and I are contemplating a move back to the Midwest.  I’m going to suggest to her that we head up to Sun Valley before we leave.  It’s only a few hours from Ogden.  If we make it, I’ll post pictures of the MR Bikeshare system here.

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