What's the next big thing in sustainable public transport? It's the bicycle. Specifically, city bike sharing programs.
Public transportation doesn't always function as promised. It can experience closures, breakdowns, tardiness, strikes, and general staff shortages. Much to the chagrin of the daily commuter. So, what can you do?
You can take a bike to work.It was said to be the safest transportation option and they are reliable.
- When Hurricane Ida flooded New York subway stations, closing them down for days on end, people raced to use New York's Bikeshare program Citi Bike racking up 126,360 trips the day after the hurricane (the highest ridership in their 8-year history).
- When Boston was making some much-needed, but lengthy, repairs to their subway line, they offered commuters free 30-day passes for their decade old bikeshare program. Thirty thousand people (versus the 10,000 they expected) took them up on their offer.
- When London Tube workers went on strike, commuters turned to the city's bikeshare program to help them get to work.
Bikeshare programs can make the commute more equitable.
As cities with existing programs look to expand in the new year, they are extending their gaze to parts of the community who are currently underserved. According to a report issued by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), “Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Washington D.C, Portland, OR, and New York City, as well as a number of other cities, expanded their bike share systems between 2020 and 2021. In Boston, as of 2021, over 80% of households are now within a 10-minute walk of Blue bike stations.”
A look at New York
It's often said that if New York's bikeshare program, Citi Bike, were its own transit agency, it would be the 25th most-ridden transit service in the country. Making it larger than BART in the San Francisco Bay Area and almost as well-used as the New York/New Jersey PATH train.
For bike sharing to work, cities must put their primary focus on safety. This can be done by creating dedicated lanes, erecting barriers, lowering speeds, and taking a second look at street design.
New York has done an excellent job with this. As the largest bicycle network worldwide, they boast 1,500 miles of bicycle lanes, 500+ of which are protected. Protected bike lanes have been proven to reduce traffic deaths and serious injuries by 18%. The addition of pedestrian islands, an example of reexamining street design, has shown to drop serious injuries and fatalities by 35.5%.
Citi Bike has taken prioritizing safety a step further by keeping the rules of the road right in front of the rider on the handlebars (and in multiple languages), providing “always running” headlights, signal bells, and all-weather drum brakes. Not to mention the 75,000 free bike helmets they've distributed.
New Yorkers love the system so much, Citi Bike broke its own ridership record several times last September as the weather began to change.
According to the New York City DOT, “66% of New Yorkers say they support bike lanes,” with 72% supporting the city's bikeshare program overall.”
An argument for health
In what is perhaps the first study of its kind, epidemiological researchers at Colorado University calculated that in an average year, users of bikeshare programs saved the national healthcare system more than $36 million. That's an incredible amount of savings, especially when you consider there are only about 100,000 shared bicycles in the U.S.
It's not just about savings, riders granted themselves “737 disability adjusted life years.” This is also known as years lived in health versus years spent suffering from debilitating health conditions like cancer, dementia, and heart disease.
The study also shared that most “people don't necessarily think of transportation policy as a tool to improve public health.” But that “the more [bike share] users we attract, and the more we improve the street environment, the more we increase the public health benefits.”
Creating and expanding bike sharing programs will only serve as a boom to cities of all sizes and we look forward to seeing progress made in the new year and over the next decade.
If you are interested in helping your employees get to work via bikeshare, we can help. Schedule a meeting with us today so we can help you find the right program for you and your employees.