Sunday, June 29, 2008

Bike sharing

I was really disappointed to see that Portland killed the bid process for its bike sharing program. Reports everywhere are that people really are unusually willing to consider other options right now. Transit ridership is up, and that's been posing problems for multi-moders trying to find space for bikes on local light rail trains. A recent--by all appearances well-done--survey in Portland showed that cyclers who do bike-train-bike commutes really do need their bikes at each end of the trip. Since leaving a bike at either end seems like a lot to ask, maybe a well-designed sharing program could fill the gap at one end?

I was also excited about the bikes. Every bike sharing program I've seen uses really smart, integrated city bikes. Seeing these around (and, hopefully, using them) might really help people understand that bikes don't require special clothes, training, or innumerable gadgets to work really well. I think the Smartbike design for the DC program looks great. I'd love to see bikes like this in shops for a few hundred dollars. They're sort of like scaled down Dutch bikes with full chain/skirt/coat guards, integrated lighting, fenders, internal gears, and a smart front luggage rack.

I've heard arguments that either A) Americans' bike snobbery or B) Americans' tendency to "think less, sue more" will kill bike sharing programs here, even though they've been huge successes in Europe. I don't think either would be a major problem in Portland. I've seen what even hard core roadies use here to lock outside the bar or New Seasons; these bike share bikes can compete for utility use. And, King County's adult helmet law pretty much means Seattle can't start a bike share program. If there's one thing Portlanders seem united about, it's that we must take any advantage to make Seattle look bad. Well, here's another chance!

I hope the D.C. program is wildly successful, and Portland's envy results in a bike sharing program here before too long.

You can see the bikes and read more about the DC program here and there. The blog hub for bike sharing seems to be at The Bike-Sharing Blog.