Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Seattle to not continue forward with bike share

The city had already decided to junk its current system, called Pronto ("Seattle's launch of bike share and four interesting elements"), but they were planning to replace it with a system comparable to that just launched in Baltimore by Bewegen.  Instead they will be reprogramming the money to other bicycle and pedestrian projects ("Seattle’s Mayor Murray kills city-run bike-share program," Seattle Times).

This event is a good illustration of my point that "The problem when you define every outcome as a success, you don't learn, and therefore failure is more likely: bike share in Seattle and Los Angeles as examples" (also see ""Bike share and sustainable bike share systems: sometimes other programs can have more effect for less cost").

In reading some of the stories about the declining state of the NHS in the UK, they refer to the practice of "always being positive as "manifestation" ("Ministers can't silence NHS concerns because people can see it unravelling," Guardian).

From the article:
Believe hard enough, and you can get what you want. Or at any rate that’s the theory behind the fashionable cult of manifestation, as championed by Oprah; focus on your heart’s desire, tell yourself you’re going to get it, and it’s amazing what positive thinking can achieve. Only now this form of secular prayer seems to be catching on in Downing Street too.

This week Simon Stevens, head of NHS England, became the latest civil servant accused of failing to believe. He is said to be regarded by some within No 10 as “unenthusiastic”, insufficiently on board perhaps with thrilling efforts to solve the NHS crisis by claiming there isn’t one. Think positive, man! Best foot forward! Like Ivan Rogers, the departing ambassador to the EU said to be too gloomy about Brexit, apparently Stevens just needs to jolly well buck his ideas up.
Manifestation is not in my nature.

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At 12:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used it last year during APA, but not much because:
1. hills
2. mandatory helmet law

At 1:29 PM, Anonymous h st ll said...

sounds like from the article they may go for a private system. Can't imagine a scenario where they are the only major city in the country without a bike share system.

BTW I need to look up the #s but the systems here in LA and Santa Monica seem to be doing well, I see people riding them frequently and they are about to do a big LA expansion.

At 2:06 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

There was a report in the LA Times a few months ago that the takeup for bike share wasn't that great. Obviously, not being there, I can't say for myself.

You'll notice by comparison to other "big city" systems that it is a lot more expensive. I think that reduces take up. Again, I don't know the spatial conditions and activity centers well enough to understand how it might work as a system.

The expansion was planned anyway. And obviously to increase take up it needs to be bigger.

That is the original lesson from Paris, and then Montreal in North America. You need to be big out of the box to get the visibility and awareness (The problem as you know with public projects is incrementalism is a budgetary friend, but subjects the project to a lot of unnecessary opposition, especially if there are any problems, e.g., streetcar in DC, and in Arlington.)

In any case, it's good that the LA system is expanding and frankly given the weather conditions, I am sure over time it will succeed. Again, the thing about my original post is use the learning from other places to do better yourself.

E.g., now systems are starting to do some serious street-based marketing. I've been suggesting that since 2010, and it is what distinguished our group's proposals from all the others. They are only now catching up. (But the others were way better capitalized, which is why we never managed to win a project.)

I don't know anything about the Santa Monica and other west side systems, which are independent of the LA MTA sponsored system.

At 2:08 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

I mentioned helmets in my original posting on the Pronto system. Yes, I think that is a major hurdle as proven in Melbourne. It probably will be an issue in Vancouver.

2. The other thing is except in the biggest cities, expecting this to be a "mass" service but 100% privately funded is a pipe dream. To be financially break even/profitable it has to charge high prices, which gets in the way of mass or at least more widespread use.

At 5:32 PM, Anonymous h st ll said...

JSK is now mocking the Seattle system, for the helmet requirement and failure:

and after I commented I saw your article on the LA system. It was called a disappointment by the LA Times (in Oct) but only 30% less usage than DC? When they are just getting started and bike infrastructure here is worse? Seems like a good start to me nothing like a lot of the Southern systems which are barely used.

At 11:38 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

mandatory helmet laws are put into place by people who believe that bicycle riders should act like cars and trucks and use the highways to practice vehicular [ suicide] cycling. Its all about what they think cycling is all about. If its exercise and speed- they demand helmet laws- if its numbers and inclusivity- helmets don't matter - because if you do not force cyclists on to roads with motor vehicles then you do not have the outrageous accident rates we have for cyclists in the Anglo and Latin countries. In Germany and Holland you seldom see cyclists wearing helmets- and you almost NEVER see vehicular cycling, either. The American western states are very far behind the curve when it comes to inclusive cycling and adopting world standards for cycling infrastructure and safety if they are demanding cyclists to " share the road" with cars.

At 11:47 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

San Diego's system hasn't done much. It has a really high cost structure. And they have great conditions for biking.

I can't remember if when I was there I even saw bike share. I don't think it had been launched yet.

(I tried to get a b&p job with SANDAG but sadly wasn't successful. They are doing great things with bike infrastructure expansion and promotion.)

2. But yes, I think that over time the LA system will do fine. Especially because LA MTA seems to really understand marketing, mode integration, and promotion of sustainable mobility. (E.g., they are the prime sponsors for CicLAvia, which gets a minimum of 100,000 participants each time it runs--in my book, that's incredible. They get more people out to an organizing meeting than DC got out to its putative Open Streets efforts a few years ago.)

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

FWIW, plenty of Dutch bicycle planners believe that bicyclists ought to wear helmets.

I do it although I didn't for years, figuring it's better to be protected than not, even though it's not clear how much better off you are.

I got into an accident not wearing a helmet and while I was banged up a bit, nothing happened to my head. Because my brain is my most valuable characteristic, going forward I figured I'd wear a helmet.

Note that the issue with helmets isn't "I ride safely" it's "watch out for the other guy."

Plenty of bicyclists are injured or killed because a motor vehicle operator made a mistake, wasn't paying attention, etc.

E.g., right hook accidents. I witnessed a couple in the past 6 months. Both the driver was clearly at fault. One person was uninjured. The other was screaming in pain, screaming like a banshee. I don't think she took much solace in not being at fault.

At 4:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

the over emphasis on bicycle speed- which bicycle shops push[ " fitting" to a bicycle for maximum speed] is what contributes to this mind set. Slower cycling speeds more conducive to city places should be encouraged as opposed to fast highway " suburban" and racing emphasis puts cyclists in danger. Again- helmets in Europe are NOT the norm, they have far greater participation, and far fewer accidents overall- this cannot be disputed no matter what some minority voices in Holland may proclaim. You stand out in Amsterdam if you wear a bicycle helmet. Also our distances in the USA contribute to this obsessive bicycle speed/vehicular mindset.

At 10:22 AM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Obviously, no disagreement about differentiating between cycle recreational riding-racing vs. cycling as transportation, although people who do longer distance commuting tend to ride more along the lines of racing cycling.

It's a lot smarter for city riders to ride more slowly as it is along the lines of defensive cycling.

At 7:56 AM, Anonymous charlie said...

Good discussion.

I'd disagree a bit on "fitting". I found that the cabi bikes -- after two years of using them everyday -- were doing terrible things to my knees. I'm 2-3 inches too tall for them and if you stand or use the 1st gear too much it is too much pressure. And I'm not a fast rider -- always the slowest one around.

Also this:

At 2:29 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

1. I'm 5'9" so I guess I am well sized for bike share, although I've only used the bikes a few times.

(Similarly, I am sized better for buying clothes from thrift shops. My brother is 6'1" and he says he can't really find well fitting clothes at thrift shops... since I wreck my pants biking reasonably frequently, if only from grease stains, buying cheap pants is the way to go.)

2. Thanks for the cite. The reason for the economically cumbersome hub and spoke system of bike share is to make the bikes impregnable in terms of being stolen. Losing bikes was a big problem in earlier forms of bike sharing.

But it comes at a huge cost. The equivalent of about $6,000 per bike is spent on the stations, which of course, makes bike share programs so much more expensive to mount and maintain.

There are various systems that allow for bike share without stations. The Dutch rail system and I think the German rail system have had such systems for 20 years or more. I don't know how they do with loss.

Maybe over time this will be less of an issue in North American cities, and they can move to a more distributed system.

Obviously, many cities are using the distributed form using the Social Bikes platform, but they tend to be deployed in places where the bikes don't get a lot of use anyway.

3. For more closed types of campuses, I recommend bike provision, where people get a bike assigned to them. Sure you don't have "fractional use" opportunities but the cost of supporting a bike for fractional use, even by the Zagster folks, can be more than $100 per month, and I don't think the ROI on multiple uses per bike is so great that you shouldn't just buy 5 bikes for the same amount of money and assign them.

4. I saw a mention of the forthcoming Ellipsis lock which is smartphone based. Will cost $199. But will enable people to share bikes.

The one advantage of traditional bike sharing platforms is the organization and concentration of participants into a large enough group to make the program work.

... seeing tv ads for the Letgo app, I think about how much capital must be sloshing around to fund something like that.

ebay already does that. The advantage of ebay over the previous environment is that you get a national market for your item, which is better than the hit and miss of local classifieds, even Craigslist, and flyers. But the disadvantage is that for some categories, the cost of shipping can still be exorbitant.

letgo, and neighborhood community software platforms like NextDoor, run into the problem of local audiences or specific geographies being too small to develop and maintain in terms of ever reaching a critical mass and regular base of participants.

At 5:54 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

Apparently one of those Chinese companies wants to enter the SF market.

Like the issue of stolen bikes driving the design of the hub system used by Motivate and in many European cities like Paris, apparently a lot of the bikes in China not incorporated into a hub system get dumped, rather than appropriately re-locked and accessible to other users.


The thing is, when it comes down to it, are there enough people willing to use such bikes where you can actually make a profit?

cf. "Letgo." I'd argue, "no."


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