Bike Is The New Black

Bike is the New Black
Bike is the New Black

Bicycling is becoming a trendy way to travel in place of the automobile, aided in part by the growing prevalence of bike share programs in cities across the U.S., like DC, Boston, Chicago and many others. These bike share programs can vary depending on the city, but generally, bicycle stations placed at specific destinations or neighborhoods have bicycles available at the swipe of a card or the entering of a PIN. The bicyclist can then drop it off at a station near their destination for another user to take to the road.

It is likely that at some point in the past two months you heard about New York City’s newly launched bike share program, Citi Bike. Of course, NYC  does everything bigger and better than anyone else (seriously, an 18-month public planning process?), but Citi Bike is already a successful program that is still in its infancy. This interactive infographic from The New Yorker shows the geographic usage of the bikes during its first month. While it starts out slow, usage picks up a couple weeks in and clearly becomes widely used for commuting to work. Citi Bike has now become popular enough to warrant inclusion on rental postings as featured amenities.

Tampa Bay Bike Share

Tampa Bay is undertaking its own bike share program, and as a Tampa native and bicycle lover, I’m really excited. Tampa Bay Bike Share is set to launch this fall, with phase one calling for 300 bikes at 40 stations in the Tampa area. Nearby St. Petersburg is also looking to create a similar bike share network to connect the two cities. “It's not about replacing cars, but about giving people an alternative mode of transportation that connects neighborhoods, embraces healthy living, reduces carbon pollution and is cost-effective,” says Andrew Blikken, program director of Tampa Bay Bike Share. Unlike many of the other bike share programs popping up across the country, Tampa Bay Bike Share is more flexible by allowing riders to lock up anywhere, instead of strictly at bike stations. However, there is an incentive to leaving bikes at stations; parking bikes outside of “designated” bike share areas results in an extra retrieval fee. The costs for renting bikes have not been finalized, but a yearly pass will cost less than $100.

Former DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn biking on the Tampa Riverwalk
Former DOT Secretary Ray LaHood and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn biking on the Tampa Riverwalk

Florida is one of the most dangerous states for bicyclists, with the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater metropolitan area having a large share of Florida’s bicyclist deaths. To alleviate this problem, it’s not enough to have more bikes; Tampa needs more bikes lanes and trails. Many strides have been made in recent years to improve safety for bicyclists by adding new bike lanes and trails, such as the future completion of the Tampa Riverwalk, the creation of the Selmon Greenway through downtown Tampa, and the Courtney Campbell Trail set to open in 2014 that will connect Tampa to Clearwater. However, it will be vital to the bike share program’s success to create a culture of bicycle transportation in Tampa Bay. In addition to building a network of bike lanes on streets with continuous traffic flow, capacity and safe speeds, Tampa will also need a bigger focus on education and enforcement of rules of the road, for both motorists and bicyclists. One of the biggest deterrents for people to switch from driving to bicycling is the perception of lack of safety on roadways. Addressing these considerations will make roads safer to help people get over their fears, get out on the road and make bicycling a more visible and viable method of transportation for Tampa Bay residents.

Update: Here's an updated list of the 25 Best Bike Share Programs in the world.

–Alana Brasier, Cities That Work Blog