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Posts from the "Bike Sharing" Category

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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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Montreal Judge Awards Bixi Bike-Share Assets to Montreal Furniture Mogul

The path to a more reliable and efficient Citi Bike got a bit more complicated this afternoon.

Bixi's new owner. Photo by Bruno Rodi via La Presse

Bixi’s new owner, Bruno Rodi. Photo by Bruno Rodi via La Presse

A bankruptcy court judge in Montreal has rejected a bid from REQX Ventures, formed by real estate giant Related Companies and its Equinox Fitness unit, for the international operations of the Public Bike System Company, also known as Bixi. The judge said the REQX bid, while higher than the winning bid, came too late and didn’t meet the required deposit.

Bixi, which developed much of the hardware and the buggy software behind Citi Bike, filed for bankruptcy in January. Had the REQX bid been accepted, a logical next step would have been for the company to also invest in Citi Bike operator Alta Bicycle Share, injecting some much needed capital into a bike-share system that needs better software and smoother operations.

Instead, Bixi will be purchased by Bruno Rodi, a Montreal businessman who owns a furniture company. Rodi, known for his world travels, rode his bicycle along the 2,100-mile Tour de France route in 2007. It remains unclear what he will do with Bixi. He could try to resell the company, which he bought for $4 million — about $1 million less than the REQX bid — or turn it around somehow. Bixi’s most valuable assets at this point are likely the patents it holds with respect to the design of bike-share bikes and other hardware.

Rodi was not in court today (he was on a boat on the Indian Ocean), and his lawyers did not talk to reporters after the judge’s ruling. REQX representative Jonathan Schulhof also refused to speak with reporters.

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Using Citi Bike Data to Figure Out Where Cyclists Ride

A new map shows likely routes taken by Citi Bike riders. Map: Oliver O'Brien

A new map shows likely routes taken by Citi Bike riders. Map: Oliver O’Brien

It’s been a week since Citi Bike released a trove of data on bike-share trips, and the public is already using the information to pick out patterns in ridership and glean new details about the demographics of Citi Bike riders.

In addition to identifying the busiest late-night stations to map nightlife hotspots, statistician Ben Wellington at I Quant NY used a neat feature in the data to show which stations attract different types of Citi Bike riders.

Riders in Midtown, for example, tend to be slightly older and overwhelmingly male. The share of female riders is highest in the Lower East Side and Chinatown. When it comes to age, however, those neighborhoods are split: The East Village has some of the system’s youngest average ridership, while users of stations near public housing and co-ops near the Williamsburg Bridge are, on average, among the system’s oldest.

Wellington also used the data to verify what many New Yorkers could tell you by intuition: Casual users who purchase day or week passes are concentrated near popular tourist destinations in Midtown, the Financial District, and along the Hudson River Greenway.

While DOT said before Citi Bike’s launch that the system would map each rider’s route, that data was not included in last week’s release. Instead of tracking actual routes, London-based geographer Oliver O’Brien created an estimate by combining Citi Bike ridership data with a map of bike lanes from OpenStreetMap. O’Brien used starting and ending locations for 5.5 million bike-share trips over eight months to map direct routes for each trip, weighting the route choice towards bike lanes and paths.

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Chuck Schumer Proposes Making Bike-Share Memberships Tax Deductible

If you drive to work, the IRS allows you to pay for parking with pre-tax money. Same goes if you take the train or the bus (though transit commuters can’t claim as much tax-free earnings as car commuters). People who ride their own bikes are also eligible to deduct some associated costs. But if you get to work using Citi Bike, Divvy, Nice Ride, or any of the other bike-share systems sprouting up in American cities, you get no such assistance from Uncle Sam.

Those to use bike share to commute to work may soon be eligible for the same tax benefits everyone else receives. Photo: Steven Vance

People who ride bike-share to work may soon be eligible for tax benefits like other commuters. Photo: Steven Vance

New York Senator Chuck Schumer wants to change that by treating bike-share memberships like other commuting costs. Schumer plans to add an amendment to a Senate package of tax benefit extensions that would specifically list bike-share memberships as an eligible expense for transportation fringe benefits.

“Bike share programs are an efficient, healthy, and clean form of mass transportation, and they should be treated the same way under the tax code as we treat car and mass transit commuters,” he said in a statement yesterday.

The amendment would allow commuters to deduct up to $20 per month in bike-share expenses from their taxable income, the same as regular bike commuters. That would make the entire cost of an annual bike-share membership tax-deductible. Chicago’s Divvy, for instance, is prices at $75 per year, NYC’s Citi Bike costs $95, and at the very high end of the spectrum, Deco Bike in Miami Beach costs $150. For commuters, a low-cost transportation option could become an even better bargain.

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New Citi Bike Data on Individual Trips Shows How Bike-Share Links to Transit

Today, Citi Bike opened up a treasure trove of data on how people are using the system, giving the public access to details of individual trips, featuring information such as starting point, ending point, trip time, bike identification number, and anonymous information about the bike user, including gender, age, and whether the rider was  using a day, week or annual pass.

With today’s news, Citi Bike has joined sister systems in Washington, Boston, and San Francisco in releasing data about individual bike-share trips, not just aggregate data on the total number of trips and members.

The data, from July 2013 to February 2014, gives the public an opportunity to look for patterns in how New Yorkers and tourists use bike-share. To prepare its release, Citi Bike worked with NYU’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management, which got a head-start on analyzing the data.

“We got it about three weeks ago,” said Sarah Kaufman of the Rudin Center. “September seemed to be the most interesting [month of data],” she said. “Everyone is going to work and school and the temperature is still temperate enough that people are still interested in biking.”

Kaufman, along with Jeff Ferzoco of linepointpath and data visualization specialist Juan Francisco Saldarriaga, sorted through the data to create maps and animations.

Some patterns jumped out as the group began its work. First was the difference between annual members and riders using day or weekly passes. “The casual riders, they’re clearly tourists,” Kaufman said. “They’re concentrated around the Brooklyn Bridge, the World Trade Center site, the bottom of Central Park.”

Another pattern that emerged: Late-night bike-share rides, especially on weekends and holidays, often involve pairs of riders going from the same starting place to the same destination within a minute or two of each other. “People are biking together,” Kaufman said. “It’s interesting to see these Citi Bike couples.”

Last September, spikes in unplanned MTA service disruptions coincided with increases in bike-share use. Image: Rudin Center

Last September, spikes in unplanned MTA service disruptions coincided with increases in bike-share usage. Image: Rudin Center

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Boston Doctors Now Prescribing Bike-Share Memberships

The newest tool for doctors in the fight against obesity? That’s right: Bike-share.

Doctors in Boston are now prescribing Hubway memberships. Photo: Hubway

Doctors in Boston are now prescribing Hubway memberships. Photo: Hubway

This week in Boston, doctors introduced a program called Prescribe-a-Bike, offering low-income residents struggling with obesity an annual Hubway bike sharing membership for the low price of $5. The program is being administered by Boston Medical Center in partnership with the city of Boston. Qualifying patients will have access to Hubway’s 1,100 bikes at 130 locations. Participants will also receive a free helmet.

“There is no other program like this in the country,” Mayor Marty Walsh told Boston Magazine. “Prescribe-a-Bike makes the link between health and transportation, and ensures that more residents can access the Hubway bike-share system.”

Local officials hope the program will result in about 1,000 additional memberships, according to the Boston Globe.

In the medical community this type of recommendation is known as an exercise prescription, and it is a growing practice. More doctors are prescribing exercise, the CDC says, as “lifestyle diseases” like obesity, heart disease and diabetes have become some of the leading killers in the United States. In addition, police measures like the Affordable Care Act are providing incentives for the healthcare industry shift focus from treatment of disease to the promotion of wellness.

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Should Alta Be Running NYC Bike-Share?

With today’s report in the Daily News that Citi Bike operator Alta Bicycle Share is failing to meet several key performance targets, a short run-down of the current state of bike-share operations in New York City is in order.

What we’ve learned since Citi Bike launched last May is that bike-share works in NYC. It fulfills transportation needs, demand is huge, and people can use it safely in large numbers. Bike-share has tremendous value and could potentially bring a new low-cost, short-distance travel option to many more New Yorkers if it expands beyond the current service area.

The unsettled question is whether the contractors responsible for Citi Bike are cut out to run it in the long term.

One half of this question has already been answered. Bixi, the supplier of the system, had a great bike-share bicycle but messed up royally by ditching their software provider, 8D Technologies. Bixi’s attempts to replace 8D’s platform failed, and Citi Bike performance suffered as a result. When the company filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, it created an opening that other suppliers (including 8D) can fill. It’s unclear who will furnish NYC bike-share with equipment and technology in the long run, but it won’t be Bixi.

The other half of the question is whether Alta is the right company to run Citi Bike. The city is understandably displeased with Alta’s performance, with DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg telling the Daily News she wants to see concrete customer service improvements.

Alta was clearly hobbled to some extent by Bixi’s technology failures, but today’s news that the company’s performance on basic maintenance and operations tasks has actually gotten worse over time doesn’t inspire confidence. Alta, for its part, says it is seeking investors to help it through its current difficulties.

Bike-share in New York has exceeded all projections in terms of membership and usage. If Alta can’t capitalize on that momentum, right the ship, and attract investment, maybe someone else can.