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Posts from the "Bike Sharing" Category

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Buenos Aires: Building a People-Friendly City

Buenos Aires is fast becoming one of the most admired cities in the world when it comes to reinventing streets and transportation.

Just over a year ago, the city launched MetroBus BRT (constructed in less than seven months) on 9 de Julio Avenue, which may be the world’s widest street. The transformation of four general traffic lanes to exclusive bus lanes has yielded huge dividends for the city and is a bold statement from Mayor Mauricio Macri about how Buenos Aires thinks about its streets. More than 650,000 people now ride MetroBus every day, and it has cut commutes in the city center from 50-55 minutes to an incredible 18 minutes.

That’s not the only benefit of this ambitious project. The creation of MetroBus freed up miles of narrow streets that used to be crammed with buses. Previously, Buenos Aires had some pedestrian streets, but moving the buses to the BRT corridor allowed the administration to create a large network of shared streets in downtown where pedestrians rule. On the shared streets, drivers aren’t permitted to park and the speed limit is an astonishingly low 10 km/h. Yes, that is not a misprint — you’re not allowed to drive faster than 6 mph!

Bicycling has also increased rapidly in the past four years — up from 0.5 percent mode share to 3 percent mode share and climbing. Ecobici is the city’s bike-share system which is expanding to 200 stations in early 2015. Oh, and add this amazing fact: Ecobici is free for all users for the first hour.

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The Citi Bike Deal Is Great News for Other Cities Too

Bay Area Bike Share, shown here in San Jose, is one of several systems that should be able to fulfill expansion plans quicker after REQX Ventures acquires a controlling stake in Alta Bicycle Share. Photo: Richard Masoner/Flickr

Andrew Tangel at the Wall Street Journal had an encouraging update this week on the Citi Bike buyout plan first reported by Dana Rubinstein in Capital New York. It looks like the city is days away from announcing a deal in which REQX Ventures, an affiliate of the Related Companies and its Equinox unit, will buy out Alta Bicycle Share, the company that operates Citi Bike. The implications are big — not just for bike-share in New York, but for several other major American cities as well.

REQX would acquire a majority stake in Alta Bicycle Share, bringing new management and a much deeper reservoir of financial resources to the company. Vexing problems with Citi Bike’s operations, software, and bike supply chain are expected to be addressed, though it’s not clear yet where the next round of bikes will come from.

For New York, the terms of the deal mean the price of Citi Bike annual memberships will rise from $95 to the $140 range, while the service area will expand substantially. A source familiar with the situation said the plan is to get new stations operating by next spring. The larger service area could reach as far north as 145th Street, according to the source, while extending into western Queens as well as a ring of Brooklyn neighborhoods around the current boundaries.

One aspect of the news that hasn’t been getting much notice is that several other bike-share systems will also be affected. As Payton Chung noted last week, Alta-operated systems in Chicago, DC, Boston, and San Francisco have all been hamstrung by bike supply problems the company had been unable to solve. The buyout should break the logjam holding back expansion plans in those cities and allow system launches in Baltimore, Portland, and Vancouver to progress.

The last two years have been simultaneously thrilling and frustrating for American bike-share, with rapid adoption in major cities accompanied by performance glitches and long waits for system expansions. The outlook for 2015 seems a lot sunnier.

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Alta Chief: Bike-Share Expansions Unlikely in 2014

Bixi

There was no shortage of Bixi bikes at this 2012 conference, but there is now. Photo: Dylan Passmore/Flickr

Despite continually growing ridership, Alta Bicycle Share-operated bike-share systems across America will probably not be adding bikes or docks this year. The bankruptcy of Montreal-based Public Bike Share Company, known as Bixi, which developed and manufactured the equipment that Alta’s systems use, has disrupted the supply chain that numerous cities were pinning their expansion plans on.

“New bikes probably won’t arrive until 2015,” reports Dan Weissmann at American Public Media’s Marketplace. Alta Bicycle Share’s founder and vice president Mia Birk told Weissman that the last time Alta received new bikes from Bixi “must have been pre-bankruptcy.”

That puts expansion plans for cities including  Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, DC on hold. Just those three cities had previously announced fully-funded plans to add 264 bike-share stations in 2014. New York and Boston are also looking to expand their Alta-run systems. Other bike-share systems that purchase equipment from Bixi, like Nice Ride Minnesota, have had no luck buying new kit this year.

The shortage of equipment also means that cities that had signed up with Alta to launch new bike-share systems — notably Baltimore, Portland, and Vancouver – won’t launch until 2015 at the earliest. Ironically, new launches that were planned later, like Seattle’s Pronto system, will proceed sooner, as they were designed with equipment not sourced through Bixi.

The good news is that the troubled supply chain for Alta’s bike-share systems looks like it will be rebooted thanks to an infusion of capital. REQX Ventures, a company from New York City that had bid on Bixi, has been in talks to purchase a majority stake in Alta Bicycle Share, according to a report in Capital New York. This should inject new resources, allowing the bike-share operator to upgrade buggy software and overcome the hurdles imposed by Bixi’s bankruptcy in time for 2015′s equipment orders.

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Safety in Bike-Share: Why Do Public Bikes Reduce Risk for All Cyclists?

boston_bikes

Injuries to all cyclists declined after the launch of bike-share systems in Boston and other cities. Photo: Kelly Kline/Flickr

What if Yankees legend Yogi Berra had followed a season with 24 homers and 144 hits with one featuring 27 homers and 189 hits? Would the baseball scribes have declared “Yogi Power Shortage” because only one in seven hits was a homer instead of one in six? Duh, no. The headlines would have read, “Yogi Boosts Production Across the Board.” The fact that a greater share of base hits was singles and doubles would have been incidental to the fact that Yogi’s base hits and homers were both up.

So how is it that a study that documented drops of 14 percent in the number of cyclist head injuries and 28 percent in total cyclist injuries in U.S. cities with bike-share programs got this headline in the Washington Post last month?

wapo_hed

To be sure, those figures were buried in the study. They saw the light of day, thanks to two posts last month by Streetsblog’s Angie Schmitt. So readers know that the Post’s headline should have been: “Cities with bike-share programs see marked decrease in cyclist injuries.”

Simple enough, right? Except that to run the story straight up like that would have required the Post to set aside the unholy trinity atop Americans’ ingrained misperception of cycling safety: the beliefs that helmetless cycling is criminally dangerous; that cycling is inherently risky; and that cyclists, far more than drivers, make it so.

To see why, let’s look further into the research data that made its way into the Post story. The team of researchers, two of whom work at the Harborview Injury and Research Center in Seattle, compared five bike-share cities with five cities that did not implement bike-share programs. The bike-share cities had a total drop in reported cyclist injuries of 28 percent, versus a 2 percent increase in the control cities. The effective difference of 30 percentage points is huge.

The safety improvement in bike-share cities is all the more impressive, since those places likely saw a rise in overall cycling activity that one would expect to lead to an increase in cyclist injuries. But the expected increase in injuries is small when you take into account the safety-in-numbers phenomenon that one of us (Jacobsen) has documented for a decade and counting: You’re safer riding a bike in a community where more people ride bicycles.

Let’s train the safety-in-numbers lens on that 28 percent drop in cyclist injuries in bike-share cities and consider why the injury risk fell instead of increasing:

Read more…

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A Handful of Car Spaces, or a 27-Dock Citi Bike Station?

Parking for 27 bikes has replaced parking for four or five cars, and complaints abound. Photo: Stephen Miller

Parking for up to 27 public bikes replaced parking for approximately four cars. But will it last? Photo: Stephen Miller

Because a construction site is blocking the sidewalk on Kent Avenue in Williamsburg, a Citi Bike station was taken off the sidewalk in mid-April and re-installed along the protected bike lane on the other side of South 11th Street a couple of weeks ago, replacing a handful of parking spaces. The new site was the only space near the Schaefer Landing ferry dock that could accommodate the Citi Bike station within the city’s siting guidelines, according to a source familiar with the situation.

Cue the parking complainers.

Congressmember Nydia Velazquez, a major backer of the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway, has reportedly contacted DOT on behalf of constituents who want those free parking spaces back. Streetsblog checked in with local elected officials, and Council Member Steve Levin and Assembly Member Joe Lentol reported receiving complaints about the loss of parking.

“We have received a couple complaints and have reached out to DOT,” said Lentol spokesperson Edward Baker. “DOT is looking at ways to free up some additional parking in the immediate area to offset the spaces lost to the bike-share station.”

DOT and Citi Bike have not responded to questions about what changes, if any, they are considering. But it’s possible that the station might be removed — or re-sited too far from the ferry dock for people to make convenient bike-share-to-ferry connections — because people who care about free parking are very good at contacting their elected officials.

The people who benefit from the bike-share station may not be making phone calls about it, but they’re out there. In fact, many more people can use those 27 Citi Bike docks than the four or so car parking spaces they replaced.

Monika Drelich, 38, lives nearby. She uses the station several times each week and was upset when it was removed in April. “I know that people complain about the parking,” she said, “but it wasn’t convenient for me.”

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The Science (and Maps) Behind Finding Available Citi Bikes and Docks

Columbia University researchers have turned their attention to how Citi Bike can improve the availability of bikes and open docks.

Columbia University researchers have turned their attention to how Citi Bike can improve the availability of bikes and open docks. Image: GSAPP Spatial Information Design Lab

Coming across an empty bike-share station when you need a bike — or a full one, when you need a dock — is a disappointing experience, to say the least. While Citi Bike’s rebalancing efforts try to keep up by shuttling bikes around town, the company is working against a tide that shifts demand unevenly across its service area.

Juan Francisco Saldarriaga, a researcher at Columbia University’s Spatial Information Design Lab, mapped those demand imbalances as part of a project the lab is working on. ”Origins and destinations of Citi Bike trips are not necessarily symmetrical during the day,” he wrote. To untangle the patterns of bike-share riders, the team used weekday data from last October to create a matrix showing imbalances at every station by hour of day.

There are predictable patterns: Between 10 a.m. and midnight, stations around Union Square act as the center of much of the system’s activity. Not surprisingly, Penn Station and Grand Central become hotspots during peak hours. The worst imbalances occur from 6 to 10 a.m. and again from 4 to 8 p.m., though there a handful of outlier stations that either don’t experience major imbalances or see capacity problems outside those hours.

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Glen and Trottenberg Predict Growth for Citi Bike, Plazas, and Bike Lanes

Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said DOT will focus on bringing pedestrian plazas to more outer borough neighborhoods like Corona, Queens. Photo of Corona Plaza: Clarence Eckerson

Two key de Blasio administration officials sounded optimistic notes today about the expansion of the bike lane network, public plazas, and bike-share.

While bike infrastructure and public space projects haven’t been high-profile de Blasio priorities, Deputy Mayor Alicia Glen and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg indicated that they intend to make progress on both fronts.

Speaking at a Crain’s real estate forum today, Glen said initial investors in Citi Bike are satisfied, despite the program’s financial troubles, and that more private financing may soon be secured to help the bike-share network expand:

Ms. Glen said that she is in the process of working with an investor team to infuse more capital into the bike share program and “get it back on the road.” There are no plans to include public funding for the program in the 2015 capital expense budget, she said.

“Citi Bike has fundamentally changed the gestalt of lower Manhattan and parks of Brooklyn,” she said.  “The mayor and I are fully committed to seeing the program expand.”

Meanwhile, Trottenberg told a New York Building Congress forum today that the challenge for DOT is keeping up with requests for pedestrian and bike improvements. Kate Hinds at WNYC reports:

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WaPo Is Wrong: Head Injuries Are Down, Not Up, in Bike-Share Cities

Image: Washington Post headline, at 1:39 p.m. Friday, showed a headline that said, incorrectly, that bike sharing cities saw an increase in head injuries. Image: Washington Post

The Washington Post ran a headline today erroneously claiming that cyclist head injuries increased in bike-share cities, when in fact head injuries declined more in bike-share cities than in cities without bike-share.

A Washington Post headline proclaimed today that cyclist head injuries have increased in cities with bike-share systems, based on a study published in the American Journal of Public Health. But University of British Columbia public health professor Kay Ann Teschke is challenging that conclusion, pointing out that the data cited by the WaPo actually leads to the opposite conclusion: In cities with bike-share systems, head injuries and injuries of all kinds have gone down.

“The message that bike-share is increasing head injuries is not true,” Teschke told Streetsblog. “The tone of the article suggests that head injuries go up. Really what is happening is that head injuries went down, non-head injuries went down, but non-head injuries went down more.”

The study was based on injury data from trauma center databases and registries in American and Canadian cities, collected over the same time period from both bike-share cities and control cities. A press release for the study said the “risk of head injury among cyclists increased 14 percent after implementation of bike-share programs in several major cities.” But to put the finding in plainer language, what the researchers actually show is that head injuries as a proportion of overall cyclist injuries rose from 42 percent to 50 percent in five cities after the implementation of bike-share.

As for the overall safety of cyclists following the introduction of bike-share, Teschke says the data in the article actually show that total head injuries fell more in the five cities that implemented bike-share than in the control group. Head injuries just didn’t fall as much as total injuries.

The AJPH article’s authors make cautious assertions that their research might build the case for helmet requirements with bike-share. The Washington Post’s Lenny Bernstein, meanwhile, wasn’t cautious at all:

A few weeks ago, in honor of annual Bike to Work day, I asked a simple question about why those terrific bike share programs don’t provide helmets to riders. There were a lot of understandable reasons — hygiene, cost, liability — but one thing all the cities I checked seem to argue is that bike share programs are very safe, much safer than, say, crusing around on your own bicycle. Their evidence was anecdotal, based on the tiny number of reports of injuries to cyclists who have taken millions of bike share trips nationwide.

Well, it looks like they are wrong.

A look at the raw data doesn’t support Bernstein’s gloating at all.

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Finally! A Kid’s Seat for Bike-Share

The magnetic pull of the minivan just got a little weaker. Bike-share has always been off-limits to people who need to tote kids around, but an enterprising DC dad has invented a kid’s seat that attaches on and comes off in seconds, without tools. As you can see in the video above, it’s easy. And the kid likes it, as you can tell by her happy dance.

Crispen Wilson’s invention won first place in the DC state fair competition for the best bicycle accessory. He’s refined the design since then and is now looking for product testers. (Volunteer in the comments section.)

Wilson’s invention was, like all inventions, born of necessity. As The Hill Is Home blog wrote, it all started when Wilson was trying to find a way to get his 5-year-old daughter to school:

Wilson’s daughter attends a school twelve blocks from their home — too far to walk, but not far enough to drive. He noticed there were Capital Bikeshare bikes just around the corner from his house and right next to the nearest metro at the school. He knew the bikes could help him streamline their morning routine — and he could save quite a bit of time and even some money. After taking some measurements of the Capital Bikeshare bicycle, Wilson disappeared into his shop. He emerged several hours later with the first prototype.

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Judge Rejects Plaza Hotel’s Citi Bike Lawsuit

Blue is just barbaric, unlike yellow. Image: Google Maps

Blue is just barbaric, unlike yellow. Image: Google Maps

It was fun while it lasted, but the era of NIMBY lawsuits against NYC bike-share stations has now run its course. Today a Manhattan judge rejected the Plaza Hotel’s suit seeking to remove the Citi Bike station across the street from its entrance. This marks the final court decision regarding the four lawsuits challenging bike-share station locations — litigants have come up empty in every case.

The Plaza sued to have the Citi Bike station removed on aesthetic, preservationist, and environmental grounds, arguing that it is a visual blight on the landmarked hotel and nearby Grand Army Plaza (also a landmark), which causes traffic to back up.

The street in front of the Plaza is exceptionally wide but just one block long — the only transportation function is to drop off and pick up people and things at the hotel. Before the bike-share station went in, idle livery vehicles took up the same space.

So, Judge Cynthia Kern was having none of it. “This congestion appears to be the Plaza’s own creation and does not appear to be solely caused by the bike share station,” she wrote in her decision [PDF].

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