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Posts from the "Bike Sharing" Category

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Study: Bike-Share Has Boosted the Share of Female Riders in Manhattan

Bicycling in Manhattan has long been a male-dominated mode of transportation, but a new study says bike-share is helping improve the gender balance in the borough’s bike lanes. Another change since the blue bikes hit the streets last summer: Manhattan bike riders are far more likely to follow the rules of the road.

Photo: NY Daily News

Photo: Daily News

The Hunter College study [PDF], culled from observations of more than 4,000 cyclists at locations below 86th Street in Manhattan, showed that women account for 31.1 percent of Citi Bike riders, but comprised only 23.6 percent of other non-delivery cyclists. That’s still below the national average: In North America, about 43 percent of bike-share users are female, according to the League of American Bicyclists.

Another key finding verified what many New Yorkers could tell you by intuition: Citi Bike riders make up a larger share of bike ridership on avenues with protected bike lanes than on streets without them. Bike-share riders, the study says, are 32 percent of riders in protected bike lanes, but only 18.1 percent of cyclists on streets without a bike lane at all.

The study found that delivery cyclists made up 18.4 percent of cyclists on the road, while Citi Bike riders comprised 23.2 percent of all riders. All other types of recreational or transportation riders added up to 56.2 percent of people on bikes. (The survey takers could not classify 2.2 percent of cyclists.) The share of Citi Bike riders is slightly below a DOT count of the Citi Bike service area in August, which put the number at 29 percent.

The report comes from professors Peter Tuckel, a sociologist, and William Milczarski, an urban planner. (A previous study they authored on cyclist-on-pedestrian injuries drew fire from fellow Hunter College academics.) For this study, the professors had students observe 4,316 bicyclists age 14 and over at 98 different locations in Manhattan below 86th Street. Counts were performed between 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 p.m. from June 10 to November 1, though nearly three-quarters of the data was gathered in the final three weeks of October.

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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.

Again, other bike-share manufacturers like B-Cycle and Deco Bike aren’t filing for bankruptcy. What Bixi’s financial distress calls into question is Bixi’s management. Two and a half years ago, Montreal’s auditor general lambasted Bixi for having “an illegal organizational structure, inadequate planning and an absence of oversight and accountability.” The company’s most notorious business decision was to part ways with 8D Technologies and its software platform, which had powered an initial run of success in cities like Washington and London. Bixi’s product hasn’t been the same since.

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

The Montreal-based equipment supplier for several American bike-share systems, including Citi Bike, 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 for Citi Bike and other systems. It also figures to be a messy process, though the company that operates Citi Bike expressed confidence today that it won’t impede 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.”


DOT: Citi Bikes Are Nearly 30 Percent of Bicycle Traffic in Bike-Share Zone

Most Citi Bike users ride bike-share for work or errands. Photo: John Wisniewski/Flickr

Most Citi Bike users ride bike-share for work or errands. Photo: John Wisniewski/Flickr

This afternoon, DOT released a bunch of data about Citi Bike ridership that gives some new insight into how New Yorkers are using the system, which covers Manhattan below 60th Street and parts of Brooklyn. The Citi Bike data also informs a new estimate of how many bicyclists are on the street in this part of the city.

DOT estimates that on a typical day there are about 113,000 bike trips each day within the bike-share zone: 33,000 (29 percent) on bike-share, and the remaining 80,000 on private bicycles. The estimate is based on DOT’s counts of Citi Bikes and other bikes at 10 locations within the service area in August, using the ratio to extrapolate the total number of non-Citi-Bike trips in the bike-share zone.

Some context: The number of daily Citi Bike trips is about ten times higher than East River Ferry ridership, which served approximately 3,000 people a day in 2012. DOT noted that 113,000 trips per day is equal to the combined ridership of Manhattan’s two busiest bus routes — the M15 on First and Second Avenues and the M14 crosstown on 14th Street. It is also equal to 29 percent of the total number of yellow taxi trips originating within the bike-share service area, the agency says.

DOT also surveyed 1,038 bike-share users in August and gathered information about how and why they use the system. Citi Bike is overwhelmingly used for utilitarian trips, not recreation: 54 percent used it for work trips, including commuting, while a third used Citi Bike to run errands. Only 14 percent used it for sightseeing, while 12 percent used it for exercise. (Respondents could choose more than one option.)

Nearly two-thirds of users said they had replaced subway trips with bike-share and 63 percent said they have used Citi Bike when they otherwise would have walked. Trips by taxi, livery, and personal car were also replaced with bike-share: 21 percent of users said they have hopped on a Citi Bike instead of taking a car. Only 18 percent said they would have taken the bus, while nine percent said they would have used their own bike. Importantly, many trips are supplementing other modes, not completely substituting for them: 52 percent say they combine Citi Bike with other modes of transportation (like transit or taxis) some or most of the time.

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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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How Do You Grade a Bike-Share System?

Bike-share has exploded in the last decade — and in North America, just in the last few years. What started as a shaky concept in Amsterdam in the 1960s has matured into a viable transit option worldwide, with 600 systems offering more than 600,000 bikes.

bike-share-guideThe nonprofit Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) is taking stock. Most major cities, if they haven’t already installed bike-share systems, are at least exploring them – and there are a lot of different models to follow, especially as “fourth-generation” bike-share technology develops, like stationless systems.

“Right now is this exciting time where systems are growing and experimenting,” said Curtis Hughes, one of the authors of ITDP’s newly released Bike Share Planning Guide. But until now, Hughes said, “there hasn’t been an objective language” to measure bike-share systems.

The ITDP report fills the void with two major yardsticks: the average number of daily trips per bike (four to eight is deemed optimal), and the average daily trips per resident in the coverage area (ideally one trip per 20 to 40 residents). Based on these metrics, seven cities rose to the top of the bike-share heap, in order: Barcelona, Lyon, New York City, Rio de Janeiro, Paris, Montreal and Mexico City.

But the new guidebook is less about ranking cities and more about sharing best practices, culled from 25 major bike-share networks across the world. “Our objective is to get more [systems] developed and to make them better,” said Hughes.

The infographic below summarizes the key ingredients of a successful bike-share, such as a recommended 300-meter distance between stations and a minimum coverage area of 10 square kilometers (a little less than four square miles).

The report also guides planners through the nitty-gritty implementation process, from feasibility studies and designs to financial plans. There’s a whole range of decisions to be made along the way. Should stations be moveable or permanent? What’s the government’s role? How do you monitor the performance of a private operator?

A bike-share launch can be an attractive project for a city administration, due to relatively low costs and short timelines compared to other transit modes. It’s typically achievable within a single mayor’s term. (Paris’s Vélib system, for example, took six months to install after contracts were signed.) Hughes noted that it’s usually considered a smart move for a city’s image, as well. “It shows a city is committed to quality of life, committed to health, and considered a clean, fun place to live,” he said. “Those types of investments are attracting the type of growth cities are looking for,” as opposed to “the highways and bridges of the past.”

A major question is how best to achieve financial stability. The report notes that bike-share subscription and usage fees offer stable revenue but rarely cover total operating costs. (Though Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC, comes close, with a 97 percent recovery ratio.) While most systems rely on at least some public funding to cover the gap, a few new models — like New York’s Citi Bike — do not, and should be interesting tests for the all-private funding route.

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One Chart Brilliantly Sums Up Citi Bike’s Safety Record

Graphic: Tom Swanson

Graphic: Tom Swanson

Courtesy of GIS specialist Tom Swanson, this graphic contains the best evidence yet that Citi Bike has not led to an increase in bicyclist injuries.

Using crash information scraped from NYPD PDFs by freelance web developer John Krauss, Swanson was able to map which bicyclist injuries occurred inside the Citi Bike service area. Then he charted those injuries as a percentage of all cyclist injuries in the city. If Citi Bike was leading to a significant increase in injuries to cyclists, you would expect to see the percentage of cyclist injuries in the service area rise after bike-share launched at the end of May 2013.

Instead, Swanson’s chart shows that the share of injuries in the service area is holding steady. Compared to the same months in previous years, there has been almost no deviation from the pre-bike-share state of affairs. We already knew that very few people have been injured riding Citi Bike. Swanson’s chart adds citywide data that helps put that small number of injury crashes in context.

This is all the more remarkable when you consider that people have been making between 30,000 and 40,000 bike-share trips every day, so the bike-share zone almost certainly accounts for a significantly greater share of overall NYC bike trips now than it did before Citi Bike. With the share of bicycling increasing inside the bike-share zone and the share of bike injuries holding steady, Citi Bike is, if anything, making it safer to ride a bike. More evidence of safety in numbers.

Swanson’s charts do show that overall NYC bike injuries have gone up slightly in 2013. But that’s true outside of the Citi Bike zone as well as inside. It could be random fluctuation or there might be real underlying causes, but it’s not due to bike-share.

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Citi Bike Carries More Riders on Fewer Bikes Than London Bike-Share

The gray and black lines represent Citi Bike average weekday and weekend ridership, respectively. The red, orange, green and blue lines represent different years of Barclays Cycle Hire average daily ridership. Image: Oliver O'Brien

Five months after its launch, Citi Bike is already moving more people than its larger, more established sister program in London, according to an analysis by University College of London researcher Oliver O’Brien.

Using data feeds from Citi Bike and Transport for London, O’Brien calculated the average number of trips taken on both systems during weekdays and weekends each month. New York, which pulled even with London’s peak usage in July, has been ahead since August, despite having fewer bikes available. Citi Bike, which by O’Brien’s count has approximately 4,500 bikes in circulation (counting bikes out of circulation, the system has about 5,700), is smaller than Barclays Cycle Hire, which O’Brien estimates has 7,600 bikes in circulation.

This means Citi Bike is clocking about seven trips per bike per day. O’Brien speculates that London might once again pass New York during the winter, which tends to be milder in London — but we’ll let the numbers be the judge of that.

Bike-share ridership isn’t the only place where New York is ahead of London: After a number of cyclist deaths on its modest “cycle superhighway” routes, Mayor Boris Johnson has shifted gears and begun installing physically protected bikeways. He dedicated the first of London’s new protected bike lanes this week.


Strong Safety Record for NYC Bike-Share Should Come as No Surprise

The Times’ good-news story this morning, “No Riders Killed in First 5 Months of New York City Bike-Share Program,” could almost have been written a year ago. In fact, it was, sort of, in this space. In June 2012, Streetsblog published my piece pooh-poohing predictions of looming traffic carnage. We followed that with a similar post as the curtain was going up on bike-share in May.

We weren’t exactly rolling the dice with those posts. We knew that there was already so much cycling in New York City without Citi Bike that even a hugely successful bike-share program would only register across the five boroughs as a minor uptick. Citi Bikers would have to be incredibly reckless, or luckless, or both, for their modest boost to overall NYC cycling to translate into the spate of deaths that the naysayers were forecasting.

To see why the absence of Citi Bike fatalities and the paucity of serious injuries have been no, er, accident, we’re going to pry open some numbers — comparing injury rates and cycling levels for Citi Bike and NYC cycling as a whole. (Injuries are a better lens than fatalities because they’re orders of magnitude more common and, thus, less subject to random fluctuation.)

From May 27 through November 1, a period spanning 158 days, Citi Bike users racked up nearly 9.8 million miles, according to NYC Bike Share, or an average of 62,000 per day. In contrast, during all of 2012, total city cycling averaged 1.6 million miles a day, according to my estimates. That figure has been criticized as too generous (I’m working on a new estimating approach, but it’s months from fruition), so let’s knock it down to an even million. Then for each day in 2012, all NYC cyclists racked up 16 times as many miles as have Citi Bikers on each day to date.

Now let’s compare injuries. According to the Times’ Matt Flegenheimer, city authorities tabulated 3,675 bicycle-vehicle collisions in 2012, or 10 per day. (I don’t have 2012 injuries, so Flegenheimer’s collision figure, which he shared with me in researching his story, will have to do.) Today Flegenheimer reported “about two dozen [Citi Bike] injuries” in the program’s first 158 days. That’s a daily rate of 0.15 Citi Bike injuries, which is 66 times less than overall NYC bike injuries.

We now combine injury rates and mileage rates. If Citi Bike riding is 1/16 as prevalent as overall city cycling, while its injury frequency is 1/66 as great, then Citi Bike’s rate of miles-per-injury is around four times that of “regular” cycling. (Replace my “conservative” 1 million mile daily figure for city cycling with my published 1.6 million, and the per-injury mileage ratio of 4.1 becomes a still-impressive 2.6.)

The next question is why — why are Citi Bike riders able to average about four times as many miles per injury-crash as other NYC cyclists? Here are five possible hypotheses:

  • Safety in numbers
  • Other differences between the bike-share area and NYC
  • Differences between Citi Bikes and regular bikes
  • Differences between Citi Bikers and regular bikers
  • The Citi Bike imprimatur

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TA Poll: Majority of Citi Bike Users Want Protected Car-Free Bike Lanes

Image: Transportation Alternatives

In the latest issue of “StreetBeat,” Transportation Alternatives shares the results of the first in a series of online “flash polls” of Citi Bike riders. The polls are intended to gauge how members use the system, and how they’d like to see Citi Bike, and city streets, made better. Over 2,200 people responded to the first poll, TA reports.

“The idea is to continue to dig into the issues that are coming up for folks,” says TA spokesperson Brian Zumhagen.

Here are the findings of the first poll:

  • 64 percent of Citi Bike riders’ most common complaint is finding an empty station when they want to take out a Citi Bike or a full station when they need to return a Citi Bike
  • 84 percent of Citi Bike riders feel safest when riding in a physically separated bike lane
  • 51 percent of Citi Bike riders said “better enforcement against parking in the bike lane” should be a top NYPD priority
  • 91 percent of Citi Bike riders want the system expanded

Issues like keeping stations balanced and program expansion are indicators of bike-share’s popularity. Survey responses also point to the city’s obligation to create and maintain a safe environment for cycling, through engineering and traffic enforcement.

As Citi Bike approaches 100,000 members after five months of operation, DOT is set to release its own survey of approximately 1,000 users, which will examine how bike-share has changed travel behaviors. The Department of Health is conducting a long-term study on effects of the program on members’ health.

In the meantime, Citi Bike users can take TA’s Flash Poll #2, which “delves into solutions to the problems Citi Bike riders identified as most critical.” A third poll will be posted before year’s end, Zumhagen says, and will be followed by a summary report.