At last month's Pizza With Planners meeting the majority of the attendees were active cyclists; we have bikes, we ride regularly and we know the most efficient routes through the city. So why would we pay to ride a heavy bike for a very short amount of time?
Practical, Comfortable, and Safe
To get people riding bicycles for transportation certain criteria must be met. These are different for everyone. My threshold of practicality is 20 miles, one direction, where I don't have to be "dressy" and I don't have to bike on super busy streets like Poplar for the entire ride. Your threshold might be 3 miles on protected pathways. That's why Baskin Robbins has 31 flavors.
While it is not practical for some people to ride to work, opting for a bike for a quick errand instead of a car while at work might weigh in on the practical side of things. I used to work downtown and would constantly be walking documents from Monroe to the government buildings. At another job I would sometimes walk from South Main to Peabody. Those seem like short walks but in 96 degree heat I would much rather have had a bicycle. That's downtown. In midtown, I know of several people who get in their cars to go down the block for lunch. They might share bikes because it makes more sense than getting in a car.
Bike share bikes are built for comfort. They feature wide seats and upright riding positions. I have yet to hear of a bike share alleycat (but nothing is impossible). Let's remember that any bike can be uncomfortable if it is adjusted poorly. But there are instructions on the bike share kiosks that demonstrate how to properly adjust seat height. Many people are also uncomfortable with the mechanics of bicycles; fixing flat tires is probably the most common problem. If you get a flat tire on a bike share bike you just park it at the kiosk and grab another bike.
So you have a bike on which you can cruise comfortably. Through all indications, bike share in Memphis would be implemented in downtown and midtown. Downtown riding is quite safe, even for the novice, on the Main Street Mall. Be mindful of the Trolley tracks and you'll be fine. Midtown is being repaved with bike lanes. By the end of the summer we shall have achieved connectivity with the repaving and striping of Cooper St and (possibly) the protected Overton-Broad Connector. Once cars learn to drive outside of bike lanes midtown will be quite safe as well.
While the speculation is that most bike share income will be generated by local users we can't forget about tourists, after all, we get about 10 million of them a year. All those people are not going to ship their bikes here to ride but seeing as how the top producing international markets are the UK, Germany, Netherlands and France you can bet that they are used to getting around by bike.
When Emily and I went to Denver we had to rely on our family to drive us around. Independent as we are, we felt like a burden. So instead of making them our personal chauffeurs we got dropped off downtown, rented B-Cycles, and visited malls, museums, bike shops, restaurants, and even rented a kayak; and generally bought something at each place. We were able to efficiently navigate a new city while letting our family do what they needed to do. After all the shopping, restaurants, drinks with friends and B-cycle rental we each spent over $500.
With a little more research we could have found rental bikes that probably would have cost 5 times the B-cycle. With a bit of luck we could have found deals on craigslist (cycling meccas like Denver have incredible craigslist ads) and if the bike was good enough, shipped it back to Memphis. That would have been 20 times the cost of the bike share. But as a young tourist, the B-cycle was indispensable.
Here's the thing: bike share bikes are not meant for us. Does that mean we should not attend the meetings? No. We must attend the meetings because our knowledge will prove crucial to the process of implementing a bike share system.
When is the next meeting? Walk Bike Memphis will host a meeting June 11th at 5:30 PM at Otherlands Cafe on Cooper St.