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Posts from the "Bike Sharing" Category

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SFCTA Report: Expand Bike-Share in San Francisco ASAP

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The SF County Transportation Authority issued a new report Monday to guide the expansion of Bay Area Bike Share, which sees 90 percent of its rides in San Francisco, despite the city encompassing half of the system’s bikes and stations.

Among the recommendations in the “Strategic Analysis Report” [PDF] is giving the SFMTA greater independence to plan and manage bike-share in San Francisco while other Bay Area cities work on their own expansions of the system.

“This SAR makes smart recommendations: embracing a regional system while not waiting to expand in San Francisco,” said Kit Hodge, deputy director of the SF Bicycle Coalition. “Now it’s up to the city to really move forward. San Francisco residents and businesses have been very clear in their call from every corner of the city for more bike-share.”

The report notes that SF’s bike-share expansion is crucial to the system as a whole, given the high usage in SF by commuters who live in other areas: “As an indication of the regional demand for bike sharing in San Francisco, Alameda County has the second highest number of memberships in Bay Area Bike Share, even though there are currently no bike sharing stations or bicycles in the East Bay.”

The SFCTA also recommends that Bay Area Bike Share operations, currently overseen by the Bay Area Quality Management Distict, should be re-organized using “a hybrid model where a non-profit associated with or managed by a public agency administers the program and contracts with a private-sector operator.”

Here are the report’s full recommendations on bike-share expansion in San Francisco:

Read more…

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Why TIME Magazine Got the Bixi Story Wrong

Major media have a habit of blowing bike-share problems out of proportion. Witness the 2009 BBC story that cast theft and vandalism as an existential threat to Velib in Paris. Five years later, Velib is still going strong. The most recent entry in the genre is Christopher Matthews’ misguided story on the Bixi bankruptcy in TIME. Headline: “Why America’s Grand Bike-Sharing Experiment Is Failing.”

There’s a reason that Divvy was fed up with Bixi’s software, but TIME didn’t explain why. Photo: John Greenfield

The main mistake Matthews makes is to conflate Bixi’s troubles with the fate of American bike-share overall:

The question now is whether this is the beginning of the end for the bike-sharing experiments that have spread quickly across the U.S. So far, officials from various bike-sharing programs are saying no.

This is a poor way to frame the issue, for a few reasons. While Bixi is the dominant supplier in the American bike-share market, it is far from the only one. Medium-sized systems in Denver, Miami Beach, and Austin use equipment from other companies, so the Bixi bankruptcy doesn’t affect all U.S. bike-share systems.

The American bike-share operators that do use Bixi equipment will probably have serious logistical challenges on their hands, but there are reasons Matthews couldn’t find a single source to back up his doomsday scenario. Bixi itself relies on subcontractors to make most of its equipment and software. In a worst-case scenario where Bixi is broken up, those firms could be tapped to supply bike-share systems with components that integrate with existing equipment.

Matthews doesn’t mention any of these contingencies. He just keeps making the same unsupported claim:

Bixi hasn’t been able to operate profitably and is now owned by the City of Montreal — which only two years ago approved a whopping $108-million bailout package to keep the company afloat. That may call into question the long-term viability of these programs.

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Streetsblog NYC 14 Comments

Bixi Bankruptcy: What Does It Mean for American Bike-Share?

The Montreal-based equipment supplier for several American bike-share systems, including New York’s Citi Bike and Chicago’s Divvy, filed for bankruptcy protection yesterday. It’s unclear exactly how the restructuring or sale of the company known as Bixi will play out, but the bankruptcy filing could accelerate the transition to more robust and reliable hardware and software. It also figures to be a messy process, though the company that operates Citi Bike expressed confidence today that it won’t impede their service.

Photo: Citi Bike

Bixi has always been a strange company. An offshoot of Montreal’s municipal parking contractor, it received significant financial backing from the city of Montreal. Bixi both operates bike-share systems in Canadian cities and runs a subsidiary that supplies bikes, stations, and other equipment to bike-share operators in New York, London, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, DC, and other cities. The subsidiary was supposed to be sold off to disentangle Montreal from Bixi’s business ventures, but according to the Times, two deals fell apart and a sale never happened.

The bankruptcy news is not unexpected. It’s most troubling for Montreal, which is owed several million dollars by Bixi, and for the other Canadian cities where Bixi runs bike-share systems. In New York and the cities where Bixi is a subcontractor, the restructuring or break-up of Bixi could be a blessing in disguise, helping to resolve some longstanding problems with the company’s product.

Until 2012, Bixi’s bike-share equipment ran on a software platform developed by 8D Technologies. That’s what Bixi was using when it bid on and won the NYC bike-share contract with Alta Bike-Share. But after an intellectual property dispute with 8D, Bixi went to a different firm to develop replacement software, and the systems that have launched since the switch — including Citi Bike, Divvy, and Bay-Area Bike-Share — have been plagued by delays, glitches, and inefficiencies. While the software has been updated to some extent, in New York, especially, it’s been a drag on operations and an obstacle to system expansion. Both Citi Bike and Divvy, in Chicago, are withholding payments to Bixi because the software is not up to snuff.

It’s not clear yet whether Bixi’s international operation will be restructured as a financially viable entity, or if it will be broken up. Bixi itself contracted out much of its manufacturing — including the bikes — so in the event that the company gets dissolved, American bike-share operators should be able to find suitable replacement suppliers. One company that’s potentially waiting in the wings is 8D, which has developed equipment including kiosks, docking units, and locking mechanisms to go along with its software.

Shifting from Bixi to different suppliers would be a challenging transition for bike-share operators, but it could appear seamless from the bike-share subscriber’s perspective.

For now, operators supplied by Bixi do not expect the bankruptcy to detract from the customer experience. “We are committed to a thriving and expanded Citi Bike system,” said Dani Simons of NYC Bicycle-Share, the subsidiary of Alta Bike-Share that runs Citi Bike. “We’re still sorting out the details but we don’t expect the news from Montreal to affect our operations in 2014.”

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Riding the Bike Share Boom

Without a doubt, 2013 has been a banner year for bike-share in the United States. Major systems were implemented in New York City and Chicago, and many others debuted or expanded in other cities. In fact, Citi Bike users have biked over 10 million miles and the system is closing in on 100,000 annual members!

The Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) has been studying 25 bike-share systems throughout the world, analyzing which ones perform the best and why. That informed ITDP’s Bike Share Planning Guide, which has copious data and fascinating charts to pore over, helping cities create bike-share systems that will thrive.

We were very happy to team up with ITDP to make this Streetfilm. It features a dozen bike-share systems and captures footage from an unprecedented number of bike-share cities in any one film. Enjoy and download the report!

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In SF, Bay Area Bike Share’s Bikes Get Almost Three Trips Per Day

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Image: SFMTA. Click to enlarge.

Following an underwhelming start, Bay Area Bike Share now sees an average of at least 2.5 trips per bike per day within San Francisco, according to the SFMTA. Since September 10, the average rate in SF has held mostly steady at about 2.7, and goes as high as 3.7.

For the entire five-city system, the average is about 1.9 trips per bike per day, up from the rate of 0.92 during the first 12 days after the August 29 launch. At two months in, Bay Area Bike Share’s usage exceeds that of DC’s Capital Bikeshare at the same point in time, according to SFMTA Bike-Share Program Manager Heath Maddox, who told supervisors Monday that the usage rate is “gratifying to see.”

Altogether, Bay Area Bike Share has about 2,000 members, and users have ridden 128,161 miles, or “almost five times around the Earth,” said Maddox. The 350 bikes within SF — half the system’s fleet — are used 900 to 1,000 times per day, he said.

The new numbers may not break any records, but Maddox said it’s “a healthy rate” and “a number we’re happy with.”

Read more…

Streetsblog NYC 18 Comments

Fox Business Tries and Fails to Capture the Dorothy Rabinowitz Magic

Might the talking heads at Fox Business turn their gaze to the Plaza Hotel’s lawsuit against a nearby Citi Bike station and sneer at the frivolous litigation tying up our courts? Of course not.

Watch Dorothy Rabinowitz wannabes Melissa Francis and Fred Tecce spend four and half minutes in faux-libertarian outrage over the installation of bike-share stations on public streets. The gall!

So, yes, Streetsblog is taking the bait and embedding their clip, but when it comes to pageviews, I don’t think this one will come close to matching Rabinowitz, creator of the original and best crazy Citi Bike screed. A few reasons:

  • The catchphrases stink. Dorothy Rabinowitz gave us “the bike-lobby is an all-powerful enterprise,” the alliterative “blazing blue Citi Bank bikes,” and “do not ask me to enter the mind of the totalitarians.” When she said the word “begrimed,” you were transfixed. After watching Francis and Tecce, I came away with some vague images of snails, frogs, and pigs, but nothing really stuck in my head.
  • It’s too canned. The Rabinowitz video was a genuine cri de coeur. She was saying all these insane things, and she really meant them. The Francis and Tecce bit is full of mugging and hamming it up for the camera. It’s got theatrical sighs and forced laughter, but no soul.
  • Reality intrudes. Rabinowitz maintained a consistent internal hallucination from start to finish. In her world, she just had to speak for the silent, bike-share-hating majority. In this Fox Business segment, when Francis acknowledges that she must be in the minority, reality manages to puncture the fantasy.
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Bay Area Bike Share Off to Underwhelming Start, Early Usage Data Shows

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Photo: Aaron Bialick

Some of the first usage data is in from Bay Area Bike Share. The data is rough, but the number of trips in the first 12 days is underwhelming compared to bike-share launches in New York or Washington, DC.

The Bay Area Quality Management District is still working on getting a real-time data platform set up, but it “will likely not be available in the short term,” said agency spokesperson Ralph Borrmann.

Here are the data points they provided from August 28 (launch day) to September 8:

  • 1790 = Total Registered Annual Members
  • 2128 = Total Casual (1 and 3 day) Members
  • 7691 = Total Trips Taken (system wide)

Divided by the 12 days in the data set, this works out to about 0.92 trips per bike per day. It doesn’t quite stack up to NYC’s Citi Bike, which hit 1.24 trips in the first two days, or DC’s Capital Bikeshare, which had 1.05 trips in its first 10 days. Of course, it’s still very early, and these usage numbers will change. On peak days, Citi Bike now hits seven trips per bike and on routine days averages between five and six trips per bike.

BABS’ results aren’t surprising, either, since bike-share proponents have warned that the small initial size of the system will limit its usefulness.

Even with the relatively low level of usage, there have still been anecdotal reports of stations reaching capacity, suggesting the system may have trouble maintaining balance. SF Weekly featured an interview with Mike Sonn last week (many of our readers may know him from the comments section), who uses BABS to commute from North Beach to Redwood City via Caltrain. Sonn said he’s arrived at a full dock at the 4th and King Station, forcing him to find another dock with a free space and walk back.

Major rail hubs in New York and London have been the hardest places for bike-share managers to maintain balanced stations with both bikes and docks available. Borrmann told SF weekly they’re “still learning the movement patterns for the bikes.”

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On the Peninsula, Demand Could Overwhelm Limited Bike-Share Launch

A total of 20 Bay Area Bike Share stations will be installed in downtown Redwood City, Palo Alto, and Mountain View. Click for an interactive system-wide map.

All the way down the Peninsula, excitement around the pilot launch of Bay Area Bike Share comes tempered with a dose of concern about the small number of bikes that will be clustered around Caltrain stations in five cities.

Bay Area Bike Share’s meager scale at the time it launches is sure to limit its usefulness. Half of the system’s 70 stations — holding ten bikes each — will be placed in downtown San Francisco, and the other half distributed among participating cities down to San Jose, which will get 15 stations. Redwood City will get just seven stations, Palo Alto six, and Mountain View seven.

“That’s the big concern,” said Adina Levin, co-founder of Friends of Caltrain. “A lot of current and potential Caltrain riders I talk to are excited about being able to use bike-share in theory, but it’s not serving where they need to go.”

Nonetheless, advocates say the launch of bike-share is overdue.

Image: Bay Area Bike Share

“Bike-share is going to make it easier for everybody to ride a bike more often, whether for work, shopping, or quick trips during lunch break,” said Colin Heyne, deputy director of the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition. “Data from other bike-share systems show not only increased rates of bicycling, but also decreased rates of driving and car ownership, so it can contribute to reducing traffic congestion and improving safety for pedestrians and bicyclists.”

Hundreds have already signed up for Bay Area Bike Share since membership sales opened on Monday. For $88 per year, members can rent sturdy new celeste-colored city bikes for up to 30 minutes at a time for free, with surcharges for trips longer than that.

The system is set to arrive at a time when both transit and bicycle commuting are surging. Caltrain ridership has increased 80 percent over the past decade, and the number of commuters bringing bikes on board has tripled, according to the agency’s stats. With commuters who are able to use the shared bikes instead of hauling their own bikes aboard, bike-share could free up some much-needed bike storage space on the train.

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Bay Area Bike Share Memberships Now on Sale

Bay Area Bike Share started selling annual memberships at noon today, and judging by the buzz on Facebook and Twitter, it looks like hundreds of people have already signed up.

Annual members get a year of unlimited rides under 30 minutes for $88 (overage fees still kick in if you take more than 30 minutes). The first 1,000 annual members get a special black key fob instead of the normal blue keys. And for an extra $15, early adopters get two 24-hour passes to share with friends and a Bay Area Bike Share t-shirt.

If you’re not ready to commit to an annual pass, when the system launches you can always pay $9 for a daily pass or $22 for a three-day pass.

In New York City, a few City Council members signed up for Citi Bike soon after memberships went on sale. We have yet to learn which San Francisco supervisor will be the first to stake their claim as a “founding member” of Bay Area Bike Share.

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Bay Area Bike Share Releases Pricing and Membership Details

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Bay Area Bike Share just got more official with a new website, Facebook and Twitter account.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District announced the system’s new social media presence along with its pricing and membership details:

Membership rates to join Bay Area Bike Share will be $88 for an annual pass, $22 for a three-day pass and $9 for a daily pass. Each pass provides for unlimited trips during the membership period, with no additional cost for the first 30 minutes of each trip. Trips that exceed 30 minutes will incur surcharges.

Officials say the exact launch date within August will be announced next month, and memberships will go on sale July 15.

The website also says the system will have a smartphone app showing station locations and bike availability. Oh, and the first 1,000 people to sign up for annual memberships “will receive unique Founder Keys in their welcome package.” Nice.

Those who haven’t taken a liking to the celeste color proposed for the bikes — a number of readers have called for “international orange” instead — may be disappointed. At a SPUR forum yesterday evening, BAAQMD’s Karen Schkolnick explained that a different shade of orange was originally considered for the system, but it didn’t work out. “When the manufacturer went through different stages of testing, the quality just wasn’t there,” she said. “We had to pick another color,” and celeste “was the next, most amazing, best choice.”

It’s also worth noting that Bay Area Bike Share will be equipped with GPS on its bikes, which will allow its managers to collect a detailed level of real-time usage data, according to SFMTA staff.

Seleta Reynolds, a planner at the SFMTA’s Livable Streets Subdivision, noted that one advantage of the small size of the pilot launch is that it can show what a large impact even a small system can have. Reynolds quoted New York Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who launched the nation’s largest bike-share system on Memorial Day, in her speech in San Francisco last week. “Bike-share is a gateway drug,” she said.

“Maybe, bike-sharing’s most important use is in places that are just on the cusp of turning the corner on bike mode split,” said Reynolds. “It normalizes bike riding.”