Commentary: My New Year’s Wish for Bike Sharing in Denver (Streetsblog Denver)
With the exit of B-Cycle from the bike-sharing community and a request for proposal to be sent out for a new vendor to replace it, it is time to look to the future when it comes to bikeshare. In the year 2020, what does a successful bike-sharing system look like? How should a preferred vendor by the City and County of Denver operate in the age of dockless bikeshare such as Jump and competition from venture capital? How should we build on the success of B-Cycle? As a cyclist and someone that used the B-Cycle system heavily over the past year, here are some of my suggestions when it comes to what a vendor should be able to provide Denverites and tourists when it comes to building out a successful citywide bike-sharing system.
Where We’re Going, We Don’t (Always) Need Docks
Companies that provide completely dockless bikeshare such as Jump provide the option to park a bike without having to have a set place to dock it. While this has caused a big discussion to emerge when it comes to pedestrian right-of-way and people with disabilities trying to navigate around them, it still remains one of the most compelling reasons for tourists and Denverites to use Jump. At the same time, docks often provide a guaranteed place to park away from foot traffic and a reliable place with a certain set number of bikes at the beginning of the day. A future bikeshare vendor should take note of these facts, possibly modeling the aspect of “docking” a bike after the system that Jump bikes uses by locking the bikes up to a bike rack while still maintaining a set number of physical docks in the city.
Have an All-in-One App
As a cyclist, I use a handful of apps when I plan my commute on any given day. Before I even go on a ride, I check the weather app on my phone to see whether I should layer up or put a fender on to avoid getting splashed. I use Google Maps to find the best way to get to my destination by bike, and use Strava to record my ride and broadcast it to the world. While all of these apps are effective at getting me to my destination safely and documenting my ride for posterity, I would like to have something that incorporates all of these items and adds one unique component.
Finding a place to lock up my bike can be a bit of a hassle sometimes. While Google is generally good when it comes to finding a fairly safe route for me to ride on, it fails when it comes to finding a place to park. If a bikeshare company in the city is looking to be successful when it comes to encouraging riding bikes, any app that is associated with it should integrate a feature that shows nearby bike racks and areas to lock a bike up to that are relatively close to the person’s destination.
One of the biggest barriers to me when it initially came to using bike-sharing was the cost. As someone with my own bicycle, maintenance costs were significantly lower than the cost of individual rides, and I only adopted B-Cycle religiously when the 5280 Pass came out. To ensure that a bikeshare company is used to its ultimate extent, fares for the system have to balance making sure there is a solid revenue stream for the company and lowering the financial barriers that people often face when using their service. To do so, I propose creating a three tiered system. People visiting from out of town would, in most cases, pay full price for the service. For local residents of Denver, the cost of passes should be 50% of the cost to “out of towners.” This subsidized rate would encourage more trips on this program, and would hopefully create a revenue stream that is sufficient to keep the service running. For low-income individuals, the service should be free.
To build on the successes of B-Cycle, a successful follow-up program should have the aspects listed above. If the city is serious in its commitment to add 125 more miles of bike lanes over the next five years, these lanes should be occupied by people from all backgrounds and walks of life.