Monday, August 17, 2009

Slow posting

Once again, I've fallen behind in my updates. I'm back into job hunt mode after my contract ended at the end of July. Lots to write about, and I'll try to get back to updating more frequently.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bikeshare demo in Seattle

Last week, we walked down to the South Lake Union Discovery Center to check out the Bikeshare demo being put on by Metro.

I'm really very excited about the prospect of a bikeshare in Seattle. I've seen a lot about the City Bike program in Copenhagen and VĂ©lib in Paris. In the past couple of years, we've started to see these programs start up in the US.

At today's demo were three systems (I guess that's what you'd call them): B-Cycle, Bixi, and the Bikeshare Program. Each of the systems has an "open cockpit design" bike which can be checked out for point-to-point, or round-trip travel. Fare structure would be set by the "owner" of the program. In the case of Seattle by Metro and the city.

Looking at the bikes, I was most impressed with the B-Cycle bikes, followed closely by the Bixi bikes (I preferred B-Cycle's closed basket, and liked the handlebars better than Bixi's). The Bike Share Group's system has a more protected storage mechanism than the others. It shows that they are the local guys, knowing how bikes need a little more protection from the elements in our damp Northwest weather. This means that their bikes have more points of adjustment to get the bike ready to ride. This is both a benefit and a drawback. It's a benefit in that you can adjust the bike to better suit your size (by adjusting both seat and handlebar height), whereas the others only allow for the seat adjustment. The drawback lies in that there's more to do to get the bike ready to ride. All bikes are equipped with fenders and lights that are powered by a dynamo hub. Bixi and B-Cycle have spoke guards that allow riders to wear long coats or skirts without worrying about them getting caught up in spokes.

I can see a bike share being a wonderful addition to our growing list of transportation options. It would be great to see bikes stationed near transit stations as well as downtown. Even though I will often bike places, I can see using such a system when I've started out by foot or transit, but decide I'd like to ride somewhere a bit out of the way of the transit line I'm using.

With the hills in Seattle, a key to making this really work will be to ensure that bikes don't end up all at the bottom of the hills. Paris has a crew that is constantly redistributing bikes to ensure that there's sufficient availability. Seattle will have to mimic this sort of arrangement. Another thing that will need to happen is a repeal of the mandatory helmet law in Seattle. The target market for bike shares (tourists, casual riders, and those who wouldn't ordinarily ride) are not likely to have a bike helmet with them, and the idea of sharing a helmet from a communal pool is not too sanitary. Mandatory helmet laws are said to be a barrier to people cycling, and it certainly would be a barrier in the community embracing a bike share in Seattle.