Bike Sharing Programs

Safe and Practical Options for Commuters

by Jim Shanman

Imagine for a moment a community that has such efficient mass transit connecting your home, office and key locations in your city, that you could eliminate a car from your life, save money, reduce your carbon footprint and improve your health.

Imagine kissing your family goodbye in the morning, walking out your front door and then just a few short blocks to a specialized kiosk. Here you swipe an i.d. card that logs you into a system and unlocks a commuter bicycle, complete with cargo basket, fenders and light system. You ride the bike 15 minutes to another kiosk, this one at the Metro station and swipe your card again, this time locking the bike and logging you out of the system. You hop on the Metro rail to your stop, walk a couple of blocks to your office where you arrive fresher and more alert because you’ve avoided the stress of traffic and parking and gotten a little exercise in the process. At the end of the day you reverse the route.

Imagine that at the end of the day, you feel much better about yourself. You’ve gotten your 30 minutes of daily exercise, caught up on e-mail and the news on the train before and after work giving you more time with your family and you’ve done your part to improve the quality of life in your community.

Futuristic? Hardly. Denver, CO, has such a system currently in place. And it’s working beautifully. In addition to an efficient mass transit system, they also have a sophisticated bike sharing program in place.

The non-profit organization, Denver Bike Sharing (http://denverbikesharing.org/), has owned and operated their B-cycle bike sharing system for two years now. Although community bike programs are fairly common in Europe, Denver Bike Sharing (DBS) was the first in the U.S to put the system online. And its been successful. According to Tyler Reeder of DBS, in 2010, they had over 30,000 users making over 102,000 trips equaling 211,000 miles ridden, eliminating some 312,000 pounds of emissions.

Not bad especially when you consider that the average commuter spends 50 hours every year stuck in traffic, yet instead could lose up to 13 pounds their first year of commuting by bike.

And here’s the best part, paid for by grants, membership fees and advertising (on the bikes) the system doesn’t cost Denver taxpayers anything. In fact, due largely to increased productivity (less absenteeism, healthier workforce), cycling in Denver actually adds $1 billion each year to Denver’s economy.

The system, including the bikes, kiosks and software, are manufactured by Trek, in conjunction with Humana and Crispin Porter + Bogusky. The sophisticated system operates on 3G technology, includes GPS tracking systems and allows for daily, weekly, monthly and yearly memberships, ranging from $5-$65.

With bike sharing programs in place in Denver, Chicago, Des Moines, Louisville, San Antonio and Hawaii, could Culver City be next? Most definitely, especially if it were part of a larger network, connecting with, for example Los Angeles, and Santa Monica. According to DBS’s Reeder, linking communities is a big goal of the program. In their case, Denver and Boulder.

When asked his thoughts on a bike sharing program here, Culver City councilmember Andrew Wesisman says he is a big supporter of biking programs. “Transportation issues are regional and certainly not confined only to Culver City streets and I would be supportive of a  “Westside” approach.”

How would this add value to our community? Weissman adds “Very simplistically, being able to get to and from work, school, shopping etc., safely, timely and efficiently, without having to use an automobile improves the quality of life of drivers and non-drivers alike.”

How much will quality of life improve? According to B-cylces’ Web site www.bcycle.com, if just 10% of our residents used a bike sharing program we could reduce traffic by 4,412 cars, eliminate 68 tons of emissions and save almost 7,000 gallons of gas. Additionally, residents would burn over 6 million calories, resulting in nearly 1,900 pounds lost. All this would save the city $103,687 annually (Los Angeles, by comparison, could save over 3,000 tons of emissions and $1million).

Of course having bike infrastructure is a key element. Now that the Bicycle Pedestrian Master Plan is approved, we have the building blocks in place. Creating a bike sharing program linking downtown Culver City to the Expo Line, Westfield Fox Hills, the Helms Bakery Building, Westwood and Rancho Park for example, would be a huge benefit to businesses and residents alike. It would also create a collaborative community all working towards safer and healthier lifestyles.

Now that is biking smart!

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