When spring is in the air, thoughts of bikes cloud the mind.
UAA has announced a bike share program as a way to help students get around campus more easily.
Though I wonder how successful this will be.
I hope that it is a huge success and that the bikes get used every day. But I just don’t know. It seems that there are a lot of barriers, besides just access to bikes, that prevent people from choosing the bike as a form of transport.
There’s the cool factor, for sure. Once one is old enough to drive a car, the bike becomes terminally uncool. Then there is the sweat factor. Some folks can’t help but work up a sweat even just walking from their car to the air-conditioned confines of wherever it is they happen to be. There’s also the presentation barrier. Riding a bike, even one with fenders, can result in one getting spotted with mud, fecal matter, or other less than savory road debris. This is, as we know, generally not considered appropriate business dress.
However, the program has a real chance of success. The campus is already doing some cool stuff for cyclists, such as installing a number of helping hand bike repair stations across campus. This is just another way of getting the visibility of biking as a transport option into the community’s mind. Likewise, it is a student-initiated and lead effort, which should increase the buy-in from most of the target users. It’s coming from peers rather than the man. Damned the Man!
There are already a fair number of cyclists on campus. There is always a bit of fear when parking a bike on campus as it seems that more bikes get stolen from there than elsewhere in the city. However, with the bike share it may end up that bikes are more secure across campus for the simple fact that there should be more traffic around the bike racks and awareness of bikes on campus. Good things. Good things.
My fear, though is that the bike share bikes will get abused by drunk frat-boy types, left in the woods, and co-opted by the homeless. Which I guess wouldn’t be all that bad. The homeless could use good bikes and the fewer drunk frat boy types to get their transcripts released, well, the better. Or at least a good source of funds to perpetuate the program. Though it sounds like the base plan is solid and should dissuade people from being morons, unless they are predisposed. In fact, I have a strong suspicion that the bikes will only be checked out by those who will take care of them because, really, who wants to give the school any more money if they don’t have to? Tying the check-out to the student or faculty member’s ID is a great way to ensure that the bikes are safely used and stored.
No, the bikes getting abused, stolen, or otherwise treated badly is not my biggest concern. My biggest concern is that these bikes won’t get used at all and the program will fall by the wayside.
I think there is a general sense that if you build it they will come. Lord knows how many projects have started based on that single belief. And some succeed. But with biking, or any physical activity, it seems much more that those who are interested in doing it already do it.
I hope I’m wrong and that this program fills a gap on campus. I hope that the next time I teach a class on campus that I see yellow bikes all over the place. I hope that the program can thrive and grow. I hope that the bikes lead to less parking congestion, though I’m not really sure about how that would work as I’ve never tried to park on campus and there used to be plenty of bike parking. I hope the yellow bikes get the hell ridden out of them.
I really do.
I’d love to see it work for the campus. And if the proof of concept works, it might just spur some folks at the muni to look at bike shares such as are taking off in New York, Washington DC, and most European cities of any note. Here’s the thing — if we can get even a small portion of the valley commuters to park in centralized locations and bike the last mile, we can reduce congestion, reduce road maintenance costs, and have a generally healthier population.
Likewise, with the tourists we get here, wouldn’t a bike share be a good way for them to move around and see the city? Even city residents could benefit by also being able to bike their last mile. The central concept is to have bike kiosks at enough locations so — say I need to go from REI to Barnes and Nobel — why drive? Grab a bike out of the rack, ride it to B&N, drop it in the rack there, then grab another bike to head over to Moose’s tooth before heading back to REI to pick up my car.
There are plenty of reasons that bike shares won’t work. Naming those is easy. That said, they work elsewhere, so why not here? I’ll watch the UAA program with interest to see how it turns out.
Maybe, just maybe, it will show that there is a market and desire for this type of transportation service.