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Bike share and bicycle parking

July 2, 2012

Via n8han, whose web presence you should be reading:

Unanswered is whether bike share, if successful, can scale up to accomodate vastly more ridership. Can it be 15 times its starting size, in order to match the number of trips taken by personal bicycles? I don’t really think that works. I think bike share fills gaps for existing cyclists (like myself) and can serve as the sole bicycle for new cyclists who over time will want to convert to bicycle owners. For that to happen, the bicycle parking arrangements need to scale up as they have done in the cities with the highest cycling participation rates. It can certainly be done. This city is full of parking spaces: they’re just reserved for the wrong vehicles.

Let’s not forget that “existing cyclists” could include people from the outer boroughs, New Jersey, Connecticut and Westchester who already own a bicycle but can’t make a direct A-to-B bike commute due to distance, hostile infrastructure, anti-bicycle policies, or geographical limitations.  With the exception of people who walk to the subway, multimodalism hasn’t really been part of how New York City views transportation.  Bike share will change that, at least a little, by creating a different category of city cyclists somewhere in between “existing cyclists” (like myself) within easy riding distance of the Manhattan CBD and “new cyclists” in the same geographic area who will eventually convert from bike share users to bicycle owners.

But unless MetroNorth and PATH change their rush hour policy on bicycles, Joe Westchester and New Jersey Jane are never going to bring their own bikes into the CBD and need a place to put them for eight hours, making the issue of bicycle parking somewhat separate from bike sharing.  While I’m excited about the number of people who will use Citi Bike as a “gateway drug” to bike ownership, bike parking in New York City is woefully inadequate with or without them.

As n8than writes, New York City certainly has the real estate to deal with this shortage.  What it lacks is the political cojones to value eight human-powered vehicles more than one that’s powered by gas.

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3 Comments
  1. Douglas John Bowen permalink
    July 2, 2012 10:04 am

    It sure would help if PATH changed its official policy vis a vis bicycles at the rush hour, I agree. But UNofficially, the change already is in place. PATH police routinely and studiously “don’t see” rush-hour cyclists (even those with non-fold bikes) boarding from Jersey locations (especially Hoboken) during the morning rush, particularly if the cyclist really knows what s/he’s doing and appears in command of the situation–and if s/he works to minimize taking up space.

  2. July 3, 2012 12:05 am

    > But unless MetroNorth and PATH change their rush hour policy on bicycles

    I meant to link back to this photo when I referenced bicycle parking in places where large portions of the population cycle:
    http://n8han.technically.us/post/4958194869/postcard-from-belgium-bicycles-at-train-station

    Podunk cities in Belgium solved this problem many decades ago. Jersey Jane could have two cheap bikes, leave one at the path station in Jersey and pick up the other in New York, if we were set up for that.

    Maybe bike share can match the cycle trip volumes enjoyed in cities where majorities already cycle, on their own bikes, but we don’t know that because the largest sharing systems are not even close. It’s certainly true that while bike share parking takes up more space per bicycle, each bike should see a lot more use throughout the day than a typical parked private bicycle. The expectation is that this makes share more scalable overall than private bicycles ; my hunch is that this is false, because of common commuting patterns (two worst case scenarios a day) and other unknowns. But that won’t prevent bike share from doing wonderful things at the margins.

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