Several years ago I proposed that Dayton join Denver in being one of the first to roll out the BCycle bike share system. It would have been about a $2 million investment, and would have put Dayton on the map in the news cycle as a major player and forward thinker in bik- sharing systems.
Several community leaders expressed interest- but, didn’t seem to understand either the costs, the revenue model, or the impact- and especially not the reason behind the seemingly expensive system.
Why are the Bcycle bikes “so expensive” they’d ask? The $3,000 price tag per seat- that’s bike and docking stations- comes from having bikes that are sturdy, safe, easy to adjust, and trackable. Not just so they can’t get stolen (the value of stealing these Bcycle bikes is low- since no parts are interchangeable with other bikes- and special tools are needed to work on them)- and because they have accountability built into them- both with check-out records and GPS.
So, despite having major parking issues at UD, WSU, Sinclair, MVH, LexisNexis – and dealing with these issues with a real solution- we decided instead to roll out the “Yellow Bike” program. Yellow bikes are brightly painted bikes that are free- and randomly available around downtown. They hit the streets on the evening of the Spring Urban Nights. 50 bikes- free to be used.
There are no signs explaining the program to riders- although there is a sticker on the bike with small disclaimer style text, and no way of keeping track of where they are, or aren’t. The bikes mostly seem to be an inexpensive mountain bike- far from the style of the Bcycle. The Bcycle has a basket for carrying items, a fully enclosed chain, full fenders, an easy step-through frame, easily adjustable seat and handlebar height, integrated light, bell and tracking system, The BCycle even has an integrated lock. The Yellow Bike has none of these- technically meaning you are riding them illegally if the laws are enforced (please see the post about the DPD harassing an intern for lack of bell and light from this site).
The beauty of a real system like BCycle is that you can actually depend on bikes to be in strategic places and track availability. Also, since the system is a “managed one” the bikes are rebalanced throughout the system so that they are there when you need them- the “magic bike.” Yellow Bike has none of these advantages. In fact- because there are no time limits imposed, nor ways of tracking them, and the number of bikes on the street is easily a third of what the standard formulas would call for – for just downtown, what this could lead to is a “we tried it- and it didn’t work” answer when someone decides to get serious about this concept.
While the city seems to have endless dollars to give away to rich developers and large corporations- we don’t seem to have money for amenities that enhance and add value to our community. Bike sharing won’t be for everyone- but, it does have a lot of pluses to it, including:
- energy efficiency
- encouraging healthy exercise
- alleviating parking issues
- making the community more affordable with transportation alternatives
Yet, we choose to do it half-heartedly.
Unfortunately, somehow bicycling as an alternative transportation option has somehow become a cause celebre of the YUPPIE creative class crowd- as states this graffiti I spotted the other day: