Home > Complete Streets, Cultural Movement, Design the Details, Economics, Grand Visioning > (Re) Introducing bike share in Traverse City

(Re) Introducing bike share in Traverse City



I suppose, now that New York City has opened a bike share program (NYTimes) that it’s time to address it in the context of Traverse City. After-all, bike share programs are popping up across the country at a steady click (StreetsBlog) and it’s already thrown around in small talk from time to time.

Montreal's Bicycle Network

Bixi in Montreal

What is bike sharing?

I like to think of bike share as an extension a public transit system. It adds another option to move people short distances, from point-to-point. Bike sharing systems are set up to be self-serving and are priced to encourage short trips from docking station to docking station. The most efficient systems, like Montreal’s Bixi system (Wiki), are used to speed up a walk or connect transit passengers to that critical “last mile”.

Hop on, hop off, do your business, and if needed, hop on another one.

Successful programs help introduce more people to utility cycling by making it super easy to make quick, short trips from home/work to businesses, transit stops, or perhaps even park-n-ride lots. Done well, they can reduce car traffic and the associated strains on the environment, community, and parking supply. They are usually set up using some sort of public/private partnership. Like other walking and biking infrastructure, ultimately they help to reduce public health costs. Capital Bikeshare in Washington D.C., the first major bike share in the United States, is using a dashboard to track the benefits (BS-Blog).

Another critical feature is that these systems make users accountable. It isn’t a miss-mash fleet of bikes placed for people to borrow for however long they want. TC has seen that attempted with the red bikes from a decade ago and even more recently a an attempt on the campus of NMC (RE).

The current bike share programs going into place require a membership and a fee for using the system. Although, the best systems offer free initial time limits, so that the first 30 to 60 minutes are free (except for the membership cost). This encourages short trips and ensures that the stations always have bikes when other users need them. It isn’t bike rental, it’s public transit.

Getting TC Rolling

Over the last two years, I’ve received several emails from people who read about or visit a city with a bike share program and wonder if Traverse City could see a program. The short answer is, “sure we could, why not?

The longer answer is that I’m not confident we’re ready for one. Politically, we have a difficult time simply designing a network of streets with even minimal bicycle facilities. We have an excellent and growing trail system, but that’s not really a good fit for a bike share program. Our attitude towards streets are changing, slowly, so perhaps we are very close and downtown may certainly by close enough in terms of infrastructure.

The short and skinny of it is, a bike share program in Traverse City is not beyond the realm of possibilities, but…(many things). Tomorrow, I’ll post a quick concept of how I see an initial bike share program looking. I’m just playing with the idea, so if you have ideas, send them in.

I’m interested in readers’ experience and thoughts.

Have you ever used a bike share bike?

Could you see yourself utilizing a bike share bike in Traverse City?

What are the scenarios you could see working?


NOTE: The Traverse City Film Festival is committed to rolling out some sort of bike share program for this year’s festival. Event based bike share programs are good beta testers, but also not quite the same as an everyday or seasonal scheme.

Background info: According to Bicyclinginfo.org, there are around 40 systems in the United States (map). New York City was by far not the first one (Next City), they just happen to attract a lot of attention, ahem (NYTimes). Around the world, in some form they’ve been around for years and are now just increasing in popularity. The largest is in Hangzhou, China with 50,000 bikes (Good).

Bike Share across the Globe


Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the opinions of writers previously published here or any of the organizations, committees, commissions or other affiliation the authors may belong to, unless so stated.

  1. June 4, 2013 at 12:12 pm

    I attended a session at TransportationCamp led by a guy who was trying to bring bikeshare to Baltimore. The main hurdle he was facing was funding. DC’s system is funded mostly by public funds, funded sort of like we would a city bus (although, after initial capital investments, it operates with a profit). New York’s system is completely privately funded, as I understand it, with Citigroup sponsoring. In Baltimore, they were having trouble convincing the politicians in Annapolis that it was worth funding; and were also having trouble finding private funding. Part of the issue also is that the Bixi/Alta/b-cycle “smart dock” system is pretty expensive in terms of what the actual stations and bikes cost to a city trying to implement such a system. There are some other folks working on lower cost solutions that might work for cities like Baltimore and maybe even TC. These companies have developed bikeshare systems referred to as smart-lock systems. Examples include Social Bicycles (SoBi) (whose CEO was also at the TranspoCamp session), Zagster, and viaCycle. Surely one of these could work in TC.

    See this article for more info: http://e3think.com/bikeshares-technological-shift/

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