Tagged: bike share

End of the week links

Hi everyone.  I wanted to share a few links and news items on this lovely Sunday afternoon.

First, you will never catch me sporting one of these (although my 11-year-old self has already asked for one for Christmas).  It reminds me of the whistle tip phenomenon of ten years ago.

Second, grab your spare parts and unneeded gear.  Memphis is having another bike swap meet.  This one is scheduled for Saturday, March 16 at Minglewood Hall on Madison, from 2:00 PM to 7:00 PM.  Admission is $5, and there will be beer.  Those of you with long memories of Memphis cycling remember the swap meets of a few years ago.  I went to the last one.  It was great.  That’s where I bought these beauties.

Swag

So much swag.

The University of Memphis Tiger Bikes bike share program is almost ready to launch.  I think I’ve posted about this before; can’t remember though.  Anyway, my friend and colleague Amelia Mayahi and I have been working on this project for around two years.  The bikes, 55 of them, are all assembled and waiting to be ridden.  We’re still waiting on a few last details to be taken care of before students can begin using the bikes.  I’m really excited for this program to take off and to see more students biking around campus.  Special thanks to the good people at the Peddler Bike Shop for supplying the bikes and invaluable assistance.

More good biking news for Memphis: we’re hosting the Tennessee Bike Summit!  It’s going down May 22 – May 24 at Rhodes College.  This will be a great opportunity to highlight all the positive changes that have been happening in local cycling, and in other cities across the state.  Registration opens March 1.

Also, if you’re a fixie fan, check out this page.

Speaking of fixies, I’ve never owned one or even ridden one, but after seeing Premium Rush this weekend, I am sooooo tempted to buy one.  The movie itself is pretty good; not the best movie I’ve ever seen, but full of ridiculously fun biking.  Two thumbs up.

Finally, I found this tumblr just recently.  It’s not biking related, but it is a celebration of all things Memphis, which is good enough to post here.  Fuck yeah Memphis indeed!

End of the week wrap-up

Hi everyone.  Well, after an incredibly productive day yesterday spent working the yard, my immune system decided to take the rest of the weekend off.  I woke up this morning around five with aches, a mild fever, and that special kind of nasty taste in my mouth that only a cold can bring (hint: think an ass-flavored fruit roll-up … with no fruit).  On strict orders from Nurse Wife, I spent the day in bed.  Normally, getting sick really bugs the crap out of me, as I like to stay busy and be busy, even if that means just cleaning up my MP3s or sorting paperclips by color and size.  (Don’t put it past me.)  But it was actually really nice to have a day of forced rest.  We’ve both been ridiculously busy lately, Ms. Wife (and she is known in her new role as a middle-school math teacher in Frayser) especially, so I very much appreciated the downtime, even if Ms. Wife had to spend most of the day working on lesson plans for the next week.  Plus, I managed to plow through a stack of half-read New Yorkers while I rested.  Not even a cold can stop me.

But enough about my unproductive productivity.  I have some articles I’ve been saving for just the right time, which is now.

First, are cyclists the new limousine liberals?  Well, assuming that taking a limousine to work involves profuse sweating, dealing with surly drivers, and the ever-present danger of being run off the road, sure.  But that’s not the point.  Some libertarians in Washington D.C. are apparently taking issue with public subsidies for the city’s very popular and successful bike-sharing program.  Their beef is that most of the riders are college-educated and white, characteristics that don’t reflect the city’s population.  (The article does a good job of addressing that objection.)

The larger question for me revolves around subsidies.  From an economics perspective, goods and services should be subsidized when the value to society exceeds the value to the individual.  In the case of bike infrastructure, there is just such a difference in value.  It has to do with the congestion externality created by vehicular traffic.  Essentially, the individual’s decision to drive a car is motivated largely by individual costs: fuel, repair, and so on.  But the individual’s decision to drive also creates other costs which are not directly paid by the individual.  Among those costs are the reduced driving times experienced by other drivers when one more car enters a roadway.  These congestion costs are a negative externality, a cost generated by each individual but not paid by those individuals.  Generally speaking, negative externalities result in too much of some thing being done.  In this case, too many miles driven.

Cycling however carries very little congestion externality, especially in cities with robust infrastructure for cyclists.  So, a subsidy for these programs is entirely justified, as it uses a public payment to reduce a public cost.  It is worth noting that other solutions to the congestion externality, like congestion taxes, are far less popular (and politically feasible), so targeting these public funds at programs that are popular makes sense.  Plus, there are positive externalities associated with cycling, like enhanced productivity (which might be fully captured in higher wages) and decreased reliance on healthcare (which would be more difficult to capture).  Indeed, there are estimates of the net gain from cycling, and the net costs from driving.

Whatever the case, I think the subsidies are fully justified.  It would be good to see the city take steps to improve access to the program for low-income residents.  But given that libertarians are not known for arguing in favor of government programs to alleviate poverty (beyond an often misguided belief that smaller government = more freedom), it appears that their concerns are motivated more by ideology than sound economics.

Speaking of economics – and who doesn’t tremble with joy on hearing those words? – this brief article on the Marginal Revolution blog asks about the socially optimal level of bike danger.  OK, it’s really just a repost from an email to the authors of the blog, but it raises an interesting question.  Again, we see the presence of an externality, again a negative one.  The externality is the one cyclist’s decision to obey the rules of the road leads to expectations about the overall lawfulness (or lawlessness) of cyclists.  So, if a majority of cyclists in Memphis are law-abiding citizens, stopping at traffic signals and so on, then drivers should expect that any given cyclist will be law-abiding.  The danger, according to the letter, is if a large number of cyclists are scofflaws.  This could change the expectations of drivers about cyclist behavior and potentially lead to more conflicts, accidents, and so on.  (Note: I’ve written about this before.)  And, at least one person thinks that being a lawbreaker is ethical.  Works for me!

Let’s talk for a minute about the phrase “socially optimal.”  Basically, a good or service is produced at a socially optimal level when the value to society of the last unit produced equals the cost to society.  So, thinking about cyclist behavior, the socially optimal level of bike danger (or safety) is found where the benefit of one more instance of dangerous behavior exactly equals the cost.  In other words, the socially optimal level of bike danger is found where there is neither too much nor too little danger.

But again, there could be an externality here, as my decisions about how dangerous to ride could effect drivers’ expectations about how dangerous are all cyclists.  So, I should behave less dangerously, lest my reckless behavior reflect poorly on my two-wheeled brethren.

(And if you needed more libertarian content, the authors of the Marginal Revolution blog, Tyler Cowen and Alex Tabarrok, are economists with a decidedly libertarian bent.  They are both employed at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, which is funded in part by the Koch Brothers.  Whatever the case, and however distasteful you might find the Kochs, I’ve met both Tyler and Alex, and they are both very nice guys.  Also, their microeconomics text is among the best I’ve ever read.  But enough about that.)

A few comments on another post about biking on Marginal Revolution:

  1. No, biking is not inherently dangerous, especially if drivers are polite.
  2. Discouraging biking might be the cheapest way to reduce accidents, but it is not the best way.  See above.
  3. Drivers might have a higher time-value than cyclists, but over short distances, there is little difference between driving and cycling, to say nothing of the health benefits of the latter.
In other news, the Tennessee Department of Transportation is making a statewide tour, soliciting input about transportation funding needs.  They’re scheduled to be in Memphis sometime between September 10th and 13th.  It would be great to see cyclists turn out in droves for these meetings.  Stay tuned for more details.
 
Do we need laws to protect cyclists and pedestrians?  Yes, no doubt.  But such laws will be largely meaningless without effective public education and enforcement.  Some peer-group effects couldn’t hurt either.
 
Making biking less scary?  Yes, please.  I am very pleased to see the efforts to link previously unconnected sections of bike lanes in Memphis into a truly city-wide network.  Big props to our city’s and county’s leaders for taking charge of this issue.
 
Oh, Texas.  You never fail to impress me.  OK, there’s some good stuff in the guidelines, like asking drivers to lower their speed, cover their brakes, etc.  But claiming that pedestrians and cyclists can be huge sources of danger?  Come on.  That’s so 20th century.
 
Lastly, insurance for cyclists?  Yes, please!
 
OK, that’s all I have for now.  Thanks for reading.  More to come soon.

Bike share programs – UPDATE

There was a great article in yesterday’s New York Times by David Byrne, formerly of Talking Heads and about 1,000,000 other projects, about New York City’s new bike share program and his experiences with similar programs in other cities.  Memphis is slated to adopt its own bike share program, although I have few details about it, as I missed the Pizza with Planners meeting last week due to vacation.  And, the University of Memphis should be implementing a bike share program for students beginning in the fall, subject to approval by the Board of Regents.  I’ve been working on that project for some time now, along with my friend and colleague Amelia Mayahi, the University’s Sustainability Coordinator, and many others.  Hopefully the two programs will complement each other as well as the existing bike share program at Rhodes College.

New York’s bike share program would offer unlimited rides for $10 per day, as long as the rides were 30 minutes or fewer in length.  This time restriction is made easier by plans to install 450 (corrected: 600) bike share kiosks and station around the boroughs.  In a practical sense, this means that if you wanted to bike from home to the grocery store, you would need to find a bike station near your home and another near the store.  You would check out a bike near home, bike to the station nearest the store, and return the bike.  After shopping, you would return to the station near the store, check out another bike, and continue on to your next destination.  You could do this as many times as you like that day.  The ease of finding bike share stations is enhanced greatly by offering an app for iPhones (and hopefully Android devices as well), that shows the location of nearby stations.

I don’t know where the bike stations will be located around NYC, presumably near population centers, entertainment districts, subway stations, and so on.  As for Memphis, I could imagine numerous bike stations in downtown (i.e. at South Main and Patterson, further north on Main, near the Convention Center), in the Pinch district, Uptown, the medical district, Overton Square, Overton Park, Cooper Young, near college campuses, and so on.  Basically, anywhere where there are lots of people or where lots of people like to go.

One thing to consider is the number of stations relative to the time limits on rentals.  The basic equation is that fewer stations = longer rental time.  If we start out with, say, 10 stations in Memphis, a 30-minute window might be too short for many rentals, and might inadvertently discourage participation.  On the other hand, making sure that bikes are returned in a timely fashion is important.  If relatively few people account for most of the rentals, effectively hogging the bikes and preventing others from using them, dissatisfaction with the program will manifest.  This is a concern that Amelia and I heard from some of the other bike rental programs we investigated.

The bike rental program at U of M will have a two-week window for using a bike.  Upon returning a bike, the student must wait 24 hours before re-renting a bike if there are no other bikes available.  The program will be open to all students for a flat annual fee.  We’re going to start with 50 bikes which will be housed at a central location on campus.  We won’t have the kiosks that are typical seen in municipal share programs due to the initial expense of acquiring and installing them.

Another concern with bike share/rental programs (by the way, I am using “bike share” and “bike rental” as synonyms, although there might be a difference that I am missing) is helmet use.  According to the Annals of Emergency Medicine, only 1 in 5 bike share users wear helmets.  While I am 100% pro-helmet use, and never bike without one, I am also respectful of the right of adults to engage in risky behavior at their own discretion, without the government forcing them to use safety devices.  I’ve never written about them before, but I am generally opposed to laws that require adult cyclists to wear helmets (although this rapidly turns into a discussion on the relationship between the state and the individual and such issues as helmet laws for motorcyclists and seat belt laws).  Helmet laws for minors are a no brainer.

At U of M, we’re going to address the helmet issue by providing helmets and other safety gear for all riders and, of course, requiring that they sign a waiver indemnifying the University from injuries, etc.  Also, the students will be responsible for any damages to the bikes, equipment, or theft.

I don’t know how the helmet issue could be addressed in a municipal share program'; perhaps with one of these?  It would be difficult to mandate that riders wear helmets, although having them available would be good and might enhance participation.  Of course, there’s also the ick-factor of wearing a sweaty, stinky helmet that just came off someone else’s head.  Maybe some Lysol would solve that.

Whatever the case, I am very excited about the bike share programs at U of M and in the city itself.  They both show that Memphis is growing into a truly bike-friendly city.  Good times.

UPDATE: Here’s a great article from the Atlantic Monthly Cities blog about safety concerns with NYC’s bike share program.  And here’s Cort’s ideas on bike sharing in Memphis.

Biking in … other cities?

I’m finally digging myself out of the back log of work from my ridiculously busy October.  As evidence, here’s a couple of articles I bookmarked from late-September that are somewhat less than relevant today, in terms of being breaking news.  Good news, to be sure, but no longer front page, above the fold.

As part of the super-busy October (and November) I have done a bit of traveling.  The trips were around 50-50 work/fun and most of them involved two or three nights in a major American city.  And so today I’m going to share some pictures and a few comments about the cyclists, bicycles, and bicycle facilities I saw in these three cities.  First stop: Chicago.

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I was in Chicago in mid-October for a conference, followed immediately by a guy’s weekend.  It was a really great trip; I never knew how much I loved Chicago-style pizza.  I was really impressed with how active the city felt.  At all hours of the day and night, people were on the streets, going to restaurants, bars, shops, and so on.  Granted, we were in the part of downtown Chicago nearest Michigan Avenue, but still.  It was really exciting.

I also saw numerous cyclists of all varieties.  I didn’t take too many pictures of them – too busy eating pizza I guess – but I did run across this website about Chicago’s cycling infrastructure.  The bravery of the cyclists really impressed me.  Biking along with traffic on a super-busy street didn’t seem to faze them, even without bike lanes.  I did snap this picture, though.

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Lovely fixie.

And this one as well.

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Here’s a few more shots from Chicago.

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On top of the world at the John Hancock Center.

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Drinks on top of the world are even better.

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NOM.

Next stop was Washington, D.C., where I attended yet another conference a couple of weeks ago.  I stayed near the Adams-Morgan neighborhood, which I thoroughly loved.  D.C. also has quite an extensive cycling infrastructure, including a city-wide bike rental program.  Here’s a few shots of what I saw there.

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My hotel.

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Bike share!  Not the prettiest bikes you’ve ever seen, but I saw lots people riding them.  Here’s a map of the system.

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And here’s a couple of additional shots I took.

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Bike parking near a Metro station.

After leaving D.C. I headed to Baltimore where my friend Jason lives.  It was my second time there, other than the hours I spent watching “The Wire.”  Upon arriving at Jason’s house, I saw this on his kitchen window sill.

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Yes, a penny-farthing pizza cutter.  Le swoon.  We soon left for dinner, and I saw these amazing bike racks outside the restaurant.

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Maybe the coolest ever.  I wonder what Cort would say?

I didn’t get to see much of Baltimore’s biking infrastructure as I was only there for one day.  Fortunately, on the flight home I got a free upgrade to first class!

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A free gin and tonic always makes flying and grading papers much more fun.

That’s all for now.  Look for a post soon about the beginning of my winter cycling adventures.