Kyle McDonald, celebrated author of One Red Paper Clip (book, blog), recently had this exchange with me about bicycle access to transit:
I’ve seen some literature around the web that suggests bike sharing networks may reduce transit use somewhat, but I’m curious to your thoughts/insights on how a bike sharing system can be beneficial to extending the local reach of the network, as a transfer.
I’m in Montreal and have been blown away with the spontaneity afforded byspur-of-the-moment Bixi rides in virtually any direction since the system’s implementation in 2009. I see people riding to and fro from busy commerical areas and major transit nodes on Bixi bikes all the time, either returning on foot, taxi or transit, depending on the reason of their journey.
I’m following the launch of Citi Bike in NYC and Vancouver’s potential launch (currently fuddled behind helmet law and other problems) very closely.
Curious to know your thoughts on bike sharing systems and how they interact with transit, and can extend access and local reach of existing services, etc.
In my experience, the 400m walk-to-transit norm is more in the order of 1km or 2km with very dense and well-planned bike share network like Bixi in place.
Surprised you haven’t done a bikesharing post on Human Transit yet, as I think they’re one of the most exciting and emerging transport technologies for dense urban areas.
Multi-point public bicycling (ie one-way-journeys) is effectively a completely different mode of transport than the private bicycle in terms of usability and integration with transit networks. (no need to transport bikes on trains or buses, just grab a new one at destination, etc)
For that matter, the emergence of multi-point car sharing systems like car2go is a fascination phenomenon and brings up some interesting opportunities for transit/walking integration that return-to-the-same-spot services like ZipCar can simply not accomplish.
I’m of the (under-researched) opinion that these emerging technologies are lowering per-capita car ownership and may have interesting macro effects on public urban transportation as they become more popular and widespread.
Anyhow, I guess I’ll repeat myself….curious to know your thoughts on all this stuff!
to which I replied:
I completely agree that bikeshare at stations is valuable to both cycling and transit modes! I suppose I haven’t posted on it because it’s so obvious to me that I’m not sure what to say.
The key thing to keep in mind about these bike solutions, from a transit standpoint, is that anything that helps transit concentrate its resources on more rapid forms of service — e.g. by reducing the demand for “last mile” local transit — is great for transit too, because slower kinds of transit are also more expensive to operate. So this ties directly to my [suggestion] (see Chapter 5 of my book) to not just expand rapid transit but also shift many local bus lines over to more rapid forms of stop spacing … so that service runs faster but is worth walking to.
The challenge for using bikeshare in that context, of course, is that the people who feel confident on bikes in the city are also confident as pedestrians. The challenge is the older or less bike-confident person, some of whom resist walking 200+ meters [to more widely spaced transit stops] as well. It is for these people that many high-cost-per-passenger local transit services — in low density areas — are retained.
Keep in mind that where bikeshare and bike-parking styles of access are needed most is in lower-density development. This is where transit agencies that are focused on maximum ridership and sustainability benefits for the dollar would benefit from being able to run less service, because any service they run is low ridership and thus high cost per rider.
So I’d like to see bike parking and bikeshare promoted especially in new lower density areas, and with a focus on being attractive to a wide range of users, not just the athletic younger people who’ve traditionally driven US bike advocacy. That means infrastructure that’s more about safety than speed, such as you see in Europe. (As I recall, the “design cyclist” for whom the Dutch design their infrastructure is a 60 year old woman with two bags of groceries.) This is really easy to do in new suburbia with well-designed off-street paths and connective paths via low-traffic streets. Canberra, Australia is one city that’s long done this kind of infrastructure really well for a long time, though they’re only now connecting it to transit.
All the best, Jarrett
I couldn’t agree more with you pretty much on all this stuff.
I’m from Vancouver and find it’s cycle culture especially militant, pushy and spandex clad to the point of turning the average person OFF cycling.
Last-mile infrastructure to harbor more mainstream, even boring, cycling is totally necessary! I’ve never heard the term “design cyclist” but strongly feel this concept needs more traction in the USA/Canada, especially the 60 year old with two bags of groceries……that’s pretty much my mom!
(I should add that I don’t necessarily endorse Kyle’s implied critique of all “militant, pushy, and spandex clad” cyclists. The tension between slow and fast cycling is a fact of the cultural moment, one that calls for some tolerance on all sides … But I appreciate where Kyle’s coming from here.)