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How to Build a Thriving, Equitable Bike-Share System

Bike-share has the capability to expand access to jobs and transit for communities in need of better transportation options -- but only if the system is set up and operated in an equitable way. Our latest collaboration with the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) examines how to build a thriving, equitable bike-share system.

At the end of June, the Better Bike Share Conference brought together advocates, employers, and experts in the field to share ideas and strategies about how to improve access to bike-share. We interviewed a dozen leaders about what bike-share systems are doing to overcome barriers to use, and what more needs to be done.

NACTO has some great resources available for people who want to take a deeper look at issues of bike-share and equity, including papers on:

This Streetfilm features footage of nearly a dozen bike-share systems, but primarily Indego in Philadelphia, Citi Bike in New York, and Capital Bikeshare in DC. As part of the filming, I got to ride along with Black Girls Do Bike NYC for a Citi Bike tour from Bed-Stuy to Red Hook in Brooklyn -- you can see more scenes from that ride in this short.

Clarence Eckerson Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • Devin Quince

    At least in Dever/Boulder bike sharing is not equitable, as it requires a CC and the bikes are crazy expensive to replace, which makes them out of the reach for low-income folks who NEED a bike to get places versus middle/upper class residents of gentrified neighborhoods who want to ride.

  • http://www.twitter.com/menorman Marven Norman

    Noble effort, but I'm still rather skeptical of all the money going into bike share systems when the environments are largely hostile to biking and if that money comes at the expense of money for high-quality infrastructure, I'd venture to call it dollars misspent. If the argument for bike share is that it "brings awareness and support needed for infrastructure", that's even more discriminatory because if those communities can't get investments in safer infrastructure until a set of colorful bikes is plopped down and ridden for a year or two by some affluent white males, that points to a bigger problem at play that can't be solved by throwing money at giving out cheap bike share memberships to other groups. As it is, the issue in many lower income communities isn't necessarily a lack of bikes, as evidenced by the existing higher usage numbers, it's a lack of places to ride that are safe and a place to lock their bike at work (and often at home too). Infrastructure is the key because bikes are beneficial to low-income populations whether those bikes are shared or not. But bike share itself doesn't address the first issue at all and to the second, only presents a marginal benefit, especially for those who work in non-urban ares that bike share systems often rarely cover. Even the systems that don't require a docking station still penalize someone who works in such a location because they often still charge an extra fee for not docking at a station.

  • Glenn Robinson

    Well put and unfortunately reflects what I've encountered in NYC and Los Angeles.

  • Paul Knight

    One of the problems that i hear with bike share is the bums and thugs loitering around and vandalizing the bikes. I don't use bikeshare because the bikes are disgusting after them.

  • kclo3

    The continued expectation or insistence that bikeshare cover its operating/capital costs probably also has a lot to do with unattractive pricing models and low levels of low-income participation. It's still absurd that without a pass, Indego's one-use price is $4, or more than double a SEPTA ride. You don't attract people by practically forcing them to use passes as a prerequisite. Lack of transit fare integration is another major factor differentiating American bikeshare from international best practice.

  • Obvious

    Why the hell is the LA Bike share 20 bucks a month where NYC is 15 and we only give people 30 min vs their 45 even though LA is more spread out.

    There's a 12 dollar unlimited 30mins daily pass in NYC I don't see that in LA, another dumb choice.

    They need to start building the stations in KTown, Silverlake and Hollywood. That's where people will use the bikes. Also in Noho and Studio City. It's almost like they're building the network in LA so it fails.