Category Archives: bike sharing

Bologna’s Cycling Struggles and the Potential to Export its Intimacy

5 modes

The 2014 EU BICI series includes: Seville (Spain), Ferrara (Italy), Berlin , Munich (Germany), Zurich (Switzerland), and Cambridge (U.K.). And, now—my adopted home town for the past year: Bologna (Italy).

Citi Bike Launches In NYC, But Will It Reach New Yorkers Who Aren’t Rich And White?

NYC is again showing its colors: Based on the expansive coverage the CITI bikesharing program is getting in the NYTimes and other outlets, one would think there aren’t 30 other cities in North America with systems already. (Ok, fine, no other system has 300 stations with 6,000 bikes).

Together with David Levinson and David King, I am interviewed by Roxanne Palmer in the International Business Times for the article, Citi Bike Launches In NYC, But Will It Reach New Yorkers Who Aren’t Rich And White?.

My “insights” include:

“The bicycle is so affordable, at first blush you’d think it’d have a widespread appeal to the economically disadvantaged,” University of Colorado Professor of Planning, Design and Civil Engineering Kevin Krizek told International Business Times. “But at least in this country, the preponderance of people riding tend to be male, 40ish, and relatively well-to-do. So if you kind of translate that forward, the people using bike share tend to fall into that same demographic profile.”

Bikes “are not a status symbol yet,” Krizek says. “We’ve had a car culture for so long.”

“All things with respect to NYC versus any other U.S. city in terms of transport tend not to be comparable,” Krizek says. For instance, “car culture is, by several standard deviations, considerably less in NYC.”

“A lot of other cities have put out the bikes first and are now saying, ‘We need better infrastructure,’” Krizek says.

“It’s still uncertain whether bike-share programs in the U.S. are viable transportation options for most residents, or a way for cities to provide “another kind of luxury item,” Krizek says.

Vanderbilt on Capital Bikeshare

Bicycles are seen in a rack at a bike sharing station January 25, 2011 in Washington, DC. Tom Vanderbilt writes in Slate about Capital Bike-Share. In response to his first question–what city would you have expected would have the best success?—it is not surprising to see that DC takes the cake. The density is right. DC is flat. There are lots of people making small business-type trips across town. There are tourists galore. Weather is usually not prohibitive. But empirically speaking, the analysis reported in the article suggests the the success of stations depend on:

-the age of its nearby population;

-the density of retail outlets (and in particular liquor licenses);

-the proximity of Metrorail stations;

-distance from the center of the system itself;

-essentially, the presence of a lot of white people.

Warning: Next “generation” of bicycle advice forthcoming

We have been hearing for the last few years of the bicycle renaissance worldwide. The visibility is undoubtedly helping bicycling. The cries have been upbeat, reassuring, and feel-good: bicycling is good and cities are changing themselves to better accommodate such.

We are starting to better weigh the opportunity costs of different strategies and where there is room for improvement. In a positive step forward, we now have representatives in leading cities questioning some of their initiatives. We are reeling back some of the enthusiasm with a critical eye. This is healthy. Here are some examples:

I offered some thoughts for Boulder, Colorado a few months ago.

We apparently have some hiccups in Copenhagen’s bicycle-sharing system (note: each trip is a whopping $4.50?)

Seattle is apparently getting lots of press for cycling (owing to its Mayor?), but little traction.



Bikesharing in Toronto

Having read and heard for years about bikesharing systems worldwide, I figured it was time to finally try it firsthand. I rented a BIXI while at the Conference of the International Association of Travel Behavior Research in Toronto.

The stations are convenient, though more are always welcome. The bikes are heavy (not surprising). It is liberating to use a vehicle for transport and not have to be concerned about what to do with when you are done.

Here are some other reactions, thoughts, and/or suggestions:

-Is there a systematic rationale for the location of the cargo rack? I see that most systems have the racks on the front; I assume this is because the riders want to have a constant eye on their belongings. However, when transporting heavier or larger cargo (e.g., a loaded backpack), this creates some instability when it comes to steering; furthermore, the size of the rack seems a bit limiting.

-It might be nice to equip the bikes with maps of return stations, particularly for those users without smart phones or knowledge of the locations for all the stations? I found myself circling several blocks trying to locate such.

-Downtown Toronto is far from a welcoming environment for cycling—an environment made even worse owing to the tracks from the streetcars. I am really surprised by the number of cyclists that do ride in the downtown area—a phenomena that is a combination of hearty Canadians and drivers who are largely respectful.

-As expected, the bikes are tanks. I guess they need to be but it kind of limits the overall fun on being on a bicycle.

-I understand that Montreal’s BIXI system is still reluctant to release their data. Interesting.

North American bikesharing (one word) report released

A new and very “up-to-date” report is out on bikesharing systems in North America, Susan Shaheen (of car sharing fame) was the PI.

The Mineta Transportation Institute ( has released a peer-reviewed research report, Public Bikesharing in North America: Early Operator and User Understanding. It documents the state of public bikesharing in the U.S. and Canada, including key factors such as essential attributes and business models; economics and insurance issues.

The best contribution of the report (other than being thorough, recent, and having many different forms of data–including surveys, interviews, etc.) is that they spend time looking at the funding and financing of these systems. Almost all of the systems receive sponsorship; most are non-profits. And, they are expensive. es; evolution of IT-based bikesharing; impact of bikesharing on walking, bicycling, public transit, and exercise; and other key factors. It also offers public policy recommendations. Principal investigator was Susan Shaheen, PhD, with Elliot Martin, PhD, Adam Cohen, and Rachel Finson. The free 138-page report is available for download at

Also, of the almost 30 systems that are reported in mainland North America prior to June 2012, it is stunning that none are west of Boulder (outside of Golden, BC)–the absence (for now) is particularly noticed in progressive hotbeds like Vancouver, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco (thought some of these places are still trying to figure out the helmet issue and others are planned).



This is how we ride….quite a rousing endorsement from Byrne

In case you missed it, the NYTimes gave David Byrne (yes, of the Talking Heads) some prime real estate in the Sunday Review section (May 27) writing about bikes and the NY bike sharing system.

He was pretty emphatic. It was good to read.

He claims that bicycling provides “emotional gratification” and this is the primary reason for riding (I suppose that is true if you are not really time constrained and have most of your destinations within a few miles; how many people does this apply to?).

In the end he writes: “Look around you. Bikes are everywhere: in glamorous ads and fashionable neighborhoods, parked outside art galleries, clubs, office buildings. More and more city workers arrive for work on bikes. The future is visible in the increasing number of bikes you see all over the urban landscape. This simple form of transportation is about to make our city more livable, more human and better connected; New Yorkers are going to love the bike-share program; culturally and physically, our city is perfectly suited for it.”

With big-time celebrity endorsements like this, he might be right.


Yellowstone bicycling "study tour" – roads closed, but still stay to the right and ride single file

Every spring Yellowstone National Park opens select roads to bicycles only for a month (after the winter plowing and prior to the hoards of tourists). I participated this past weekend. It is amazing. No cars for hundreds of miles, no tourists. Really, no people. Just flora, fauna and the largest geyser basin world–all to yourselves!

But here is an outstanding question from my Yellowstone study tour–a question that my colleagues I could not fully resolve. What “rules of the road” are in effect? The National Park Service owns their roads and polices them with their own forces. This suggests that the roads are not under typical statutory guidelines. The park is technically open, but the roads are closed to vehicular traffic. This suggests there might be some seasonality issues to any rules that are adopted? But, possibly the traditional “rules of the road” (as defined by the National Park Service) are still in effect? The reason I ask is that on a blissful 60 degree Sunday, a day when we saw–at most, 10 people over our 50 mile journey–the Park Ranger reminded us of the importance of riding single file and staying to the right.