Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A 21st Century New Mobility Project

new yorker cover page bikes - girl onlyThe City of New York after something like four years of looking, envying, cogitating, visiting, copying, adapting, hoping, planning, protesting, hesitating, adapting, postponing, innovating, negotiating,  and finally getting the job done is about to open its doors for the grand opening of its new bike share project, Citi Bike.

new yorker cover page bikes - smaller“Urban Cycles” cover page of The New Yorker, 3 June 2013. On the occasion of the launch of the city's first public bicycle project. Cover by Marcellus Hall

The privately funded Citi Bike bike-share program is launching with 6,000 bikes at 330 docking stations in lower Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn. The plans are to expand to 10,000 bikes and 600 docking stations in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

But . . .

Is this a transportation project? A city project? A social project? Environmental? A money making project for someone?

Who is going to pay for it? How much? Why would a bank want to put their name on it? How will they get their "money" back"?  What about the "externalities" are the brought into the equation in any way?

Who are the customers, all those people who are going to ride  the bikes and pay something for them in the process ($95/year, roughly equal to 19 round trips on the subway)? Will they be old or young? Male or female? Rich or poor? New Yorkers, visitors? Regulars or occasionals?

Why did it take New York so long to do what on the surface looks like a good idea and which exists today in more than one hundred cities around the world, almost all of them sufficiently happy with what they have that they are most unlikely to go backward?

Who loves it? Who hates it and wishes it the worst?  Who is puzzled and/or doesn't care?

What we do know is that this is a true 21st century project. Just the kind of project that the members of this class should and quite possibly will get involved with.  A bit of your future definitely in this.

Nice project for a thesis.

USA New York Citi Bike* Official sponsor page http://www.citibikenyc.com/

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  1. All very important questions to be asking Eric.

    Here in Melbourne, after ~5 years our bike-share scheme has been far from a stellar success. A common diagnosis of this is that Australia's mandatory helmet law for cyclists is not at all suited to this kind of system and the 'spontaneity' benefit of being able to pick up a bike at short notice.

    As a result the govt set up a scheme of renting basic helmets for $5 at convenience stores - but as a PhD student the main use of these I've seen is by undergrad students keeping them to save $$ on buying a proper helmet!

    My observation is our system really should have been better integrated with the railway stations around Melbourne too, and needs a bit larger coverage of bike hire stations to be genuinely useful.

    I am also a bit skeptical that the Melbourne scheme was set up on contract by the RACV, the main car-owners club in our state of Victoria - who hardly seem to have a strong interest in seeing the system succeed.

    So the fact this is a private system in New York, and the competence of the operator, definitely needs to be looked at.

  2. Congratulations to the city of New York for this new service.

    I live in Florence, which would be an ideal context for the bike sharing. It seems incredible, but still lacks a service of this kind in the city (even if there are some classic services daily rental of bicycles).

    Moreover, with tourists coming every week in the city, there would be also good revenue for the city if there was a modern bike-sharing service. But the short-sightedness of the administration prevents progress in this direction.


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