Bike Share: The Big Picture

Bike Share Map via Transportation Nation

Bike Share Map via

Have you been following the bike share boom?

While we eagerly anticipate Austin’s bike share launch scheduled for this year, the rapid growth in bike share is teaching us some important lessons about “on demand” mobility options and how they work best to improve connectivity and create demand for safer, more inviting places for people to bike and walk.  

More and more cities across the United States are taking part in the bike share movement. Earlier this year we noted that fifteen cities had adopted a program and guess what – it’s catching on! Eighteen more cities are scheduled to launch programs in 2013 (including Austin) and six more are slated for 2014. Last month, NYC launched the largest bike share in the United States with more than 5,000 founding members.

Washington D.C. recently reported that the average subscriber drove 198 miles less per year after joining the system, according to the November 2012 survey of Capital Bikeshare members. And that’s not all! Washington D.C.’s bike share has been a big game changer for members and drivers alike; drivers are responding positively by slowing down and sharing the roads because they don’t see bike share users as combatants in the “road wars” usually occurring during the daily commute.

Lesson one: people using bike share will not be the “cyclist” that is used to riding with cars and traffic.

The explosion in bike share will be seen as a turning point for “on demand” transportation that can truly become a healthy, safe and practical way to get around if we learn from Amsterdam and other European cities that we also need to build the infrastructure required.

Even Amsterdam, which has come to represent a sort of utopian example for bicycling in an urban area, experienced struggles along the way. Through their experience, Amsterdam has taught us that cycling gets safer for everyone as there are more cyclists on the road. The best way to get more people on bicycles is to create an network of bicycle infrastructure where all types of people feel comfortable.

Lesson two: we need to design places people will feel comfortable using a bicycle and that design should also reduce conflicts, helping all travelers. 

While Austin awaits bike share, we are seeing progress towards more people friendly bicycle amenities throughout the city. Currently the boardwalk project is on schedule and Barton Springs Road is becoming a shining example of Green Lane projects. And the City is preparing to update the Bicycle Master Plan to include a stronger Green Lanes approach for future projects.  They will also include specific priority recommendations for downtown area improvements. All of this activity is a great sign for people wanting a great option for short-trips around town.

3 Responses to Bike Share: The Big Picture

  1. Chris Ewen says:

    Yes, while Austin has made some great progress on making bicycle use feel safer, Many people do not feel comfortable riding a bicycle in many places even where there is a bicycle lane. Also, I’ve noticed that in other cities in the US (Washington DC and NYC) once a bike share program was introduced, many citizens didn’t understand how to best use it for their wives. The latest New York Times article about the bike share program’s introduction shows that the author had a preconceived idea of what bikeshare can do and really missed the point. It reminds me how I felt about the iPad before I bought one: I had a limited view of how useful it would become. I think it will be very important for the city to engage the bloggers and the press to make sure that they really understand how this can really fully be utilized.

    • Glenn says:


      Smart observations and great advice. Thank you and don’t forget to share this story with all your friends so they too can see how smart I think you are.

  2. Chris Ewen says:

    Excuse some typos – I wrote this on my iphone and thought I caught them all. I meant : how they bet use them for their “lives”