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Lucian Go’s Blog

Bikesharing: The People Have "Spoke"-n

Lucian Go

Posted September 11, 2013

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With the recent launch of a bikesharing program for the San Francisco Bay Area, it’s no secret that the popularity of shared bikes is on the up and up in major U.S. cities. Bay Area BikeShare brings the country’s fleet to well over 18,000 shared bikes (and 1.2 million bicycle spokes, by my calculation). This number, believe it or not, has doubled since the beginning of this year, according to a recent article in Grist. Success is evident in places like NYC, where each of the program's 6,000 Citi Bikes might be checked out 7 times or more on a busy day.

The Grist article points out that while the U.S. bikesharing fleet is expected to double again by the end of 2014, American bikeshare programs are still mostly tiny compared to the world’s largest fleets, such as Paris’s 20,000-plus bike Vélib' program.

Clearly, there is a sea of opportunity for bikesharing in U.S. cities where programs do not exist, are in the works, or will be expanded in the future. An example of huge untapped potential lies in Los Angeles, which happens to be the country’s second-most populous city/metro area and a region that committed a projected $40 billion to transportation upgrades in 2008 through Measure R.

In fact, the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT) has a plan in the works to build a series of mobility hubs at key transit nodes, aimed at solving the “first mile, last mile” problem that prevents many people from using transit due to an inability to get to or from a station. Mobility hubs are aimed at alleviating this problem by providing a host of options at a transit station, including secure bike parking, bikesharing and carsharing.

User experience is key to the notion of a mobility hub, which needs be a seamless and convenient option in order to compel drivers to ditch their cars in favor of transit. In a day and age where more than half of American adults own smartphones (that’s a 15% increase in just two years), this means that a rider should easily be able to reserve a bike or car share en route, while looking at real-time bus and train arrivals on their phone, all in one integrated app.

In places like Denmark, where Cykel DK bikes will come equipped with an Android tablet with built-in GPS, ticketing, and arrival information, bikesharing is already being taken to a whole new level (check out the video below for more details on these awesome bikes).

As the U.S. starts to ride the bikesharing wave, cities like Los Angeles need to be sure to take a cue from the Danes and tap into existing technology, not only to be the best possible alternative to driving, but to provide a platform that can be used to link riders up with mobility hubs, which represent much larger-scale opportunities for reducing pollution and congestion by integrating alternative transportation options.

Photo Credit: Mr. T in DC, Flickr

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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