Revisiting assistance programs to get people biking: 18 programs
Updated: 3/5/2020: spurred in part by an e-list discussion about seniors needing walkable and bikeable communities, and recent Washington Post coverage and subsequent e-list discussion about biking as a tool of gentrification and a racist plot ("D.C. Council proposal to move 9th Street bike lane forward stalls over questions of race and gentrification").
New items #4 focuses on bike training for children and youth, with a focus on transportational cycling as they age, while #6 and #7s discuss systematic approaches to fostering cycling take up by demographics (age; gender; race; household type).
The reality is that even though more than 60% of trips in the US are less than 6 miles, and more than 20% less than one mile, most people don't take biking seriously as a transportation mode. They see bikes as toys. And toys aren't transportation.
Larry Littlefield followed up his recent post on the bubble in the US real estate market with a piece on e-biking as an alternative to the car as a way to enable housing affordability in transit "deserts", ("Expanding Livability, Workability, Affordability: A Small Example").
The problem is that most people aren't so logical. They find it hard to buck prevailing attitudes and preferences favoring automobility, even with e-bikes.
But yes, e-bikes are great in terms of helping people deal with hills, time, longer distances than they might otherwise be comfortable traveling by traditional pedal bicycles, and age ("(Still) tired of mis-understanding of the potential for e-bikes").
Riide is an e-bike firm in DC. They've ended up focusing on renting bikes to firms for something like $80/mo. One woman I talked to was a professional dog walker and she used the bike to get from client to client.
The past entry, "Eight "mutual assistance programs" that can build support for biking as transportation on the part of low income communities," discussed 8 different programs.
But in replying to Larry's post, I realized that the post didn't include one program that I thought I had included, and it ought to be updated anyway.
The original post has all the preliminary discussion.
1. Creating "sustainable mobility stores" as primary points of contact to assist people in making the transition to biking as transportation. This is discussed in the 2018 post "LimeBike and "scooter lifestyle stores" as an example of forward marketing for sustainable mobility" although I've recommended that Arlington's CommuterStores include such capabilities for more than a decade.
This is about marketing. Cars are marketed, heavily. Biking and transit needs to be promoted similarly.
Many transit organizations sponsor, like what Arlington County calls "Commuter Stores," retail stores focused on non-automobile transportation, although they tend to be focused on transit and the sales and distribution of commuter passes.
The Velocity Bicycle Cooperative has space on Mount Vernon Avenue in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, which is awesome, but probably relatively expensive.
2. Cycle Borrowing programs. Many UK cities have either free or low cost programs where people can borrow a bike with helmet and lock, for periods of up to a month or more, to test out switching to biking as transportation.
One such program is in the Lambeth borough of London, where people can get "kitted up" for £20 for a regular bike, £50 for an e-bike, and £100 for a cargo bike.
According to an evaluation report commissioned by the London Cyclist Campaign (Urban Cycle Loan schemes):
• 81% of participants are still cycling 3 months after finishing the programmeThe Iowa City Bicycle Library loans out bikes for up to 6 months, although a hefty deposit is required and the bikes they offer tend to be more suited for recreation.
• The majority are using their bikes to commute, for leisure and everyday trips
• 78% have encouraged a friend or member of their family to start cycling
• 82% of participants have seen an improvement in their health and well-being
• People tend to use their cars and the bus less after completing the scheme
3. Cycling training. Bicycle borrowing programs need to be complemented by cycle training programs, like Hounslow borough's, Cycle training for adults and children, which last year won national acknowledgement. From "Hounslow scoops award for cycling success":
Hounslow Council has picked up the 2019 London Road Safety Award for their pioneering cycle training scheme that has raised the profile of adult cycle training in the borough while increasing participation.Bike organizations across the US hold training programs to help people start biking for transportation. But these programs aren't paired with a program where people can borrow bikes to try bike commuting without having to spend hundreds of dollars on a bike and gear before they even start.
The scheme has seen a significant increase in the number of participants on their adult cycle training sessions over the last three years.
In 2016 the council changed the way people accessed the training, which helped not only to increase participation but more importantly, its reach to communities that are underrepresented in cycling. Adult participation numbers went from just under 100 adults in 2016/17 to 1,686 in 2018/19.
4. Bike safety training for children AND YOUTH. While many communities have bike safety training for children, usually it's focused on elementary aged children, and more for recreation. Such training should be repeated at the junior and senior high school levels, and focused towards cycling for transportation.
5. Integrating cycling promotion programs into public recreation centers. I don't have any good examples of this "in real life" but I suggested doing so in the draft bike and pedestrian plan I wrote for Baltimore County, Maryland.
There are two kinds of community bike promotion programs that are top of mind, bike co-ops and youth bike programs, that ought to be integrated into public recreation and community centers as a matter of course, especially in lower income areas,
Instead of forcing community bike programs to come up with space and the money to keep it going, why not integrate such programs into community recreation centers, which would also make their services more widely available and provide a lot more visibility for biking.
A Bikeable Feast blog.
In the DC area, bike co-ops include The Bike House in Petworth, the Mt. Rainier Bike Co-op just over the DC border in Maryland, and the VéloCity Bicycle Cooperative in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia. Bike co-ops usually help people fix bikes, teach basic bike repair, and may hold community rides.
Youth bike programs generally use biking as a way to teach life skills.
Some programs that come to mind are Gearin' Up Bicycles in DC, Phoenix Bikes in Arlington County, Virginia, Recycle-A-Bicycle in New York City (in the past, they've sponsored a national Youth Bike Summit), and Neighborhood Bike Works in Philadelphia ("Well Being: Ride of Dreams takes them far" Philadelphia Inquirer). NBW is now an independent organization but originally it was a program of the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.
A program I find particularly impressive is the Ghisallo Bicycle Initiative in Austin, Texas. It's definitely a model of national best practice. One of their programs sets up "Bike Club" after-school programs at specific schools, but they have many more equally awesome programs, for all age levels.
Other examples include Sun Youth Organization in Montreal, Wish for Wheels in Colorado, Dallas Earn-a-bike, and the Community Bicycle Center in Biddeford, Maine. While the Community Cycles Earn-a-Bike program in Boulder offers bikes to youths 16 and older, it is equally focused on adults.
Another example focused on African-American youth are the Major Taylor Bicycle Clubs. Major Taylor was an African-American bicycle racer. One active club is in Seattle (Young people find cycling gets the wheels turning", Seattle Times). Another is in Minneapolis ("Meet the Minnesotan who's the biking 'ambassador' to the black community," Minneapolis Star-Tribune).
6. Other community cycling initiatives. The previous item mentions youth oriented biking programs. My problem with most bike plans is that they tend to be idiosyncratic when it comes to the systematic promotion of cycling take up for all demographics (age, gender, race, household type). Rather than promote one specific race- or age- or gender- specific initiative, I think they should all be supported in a systematic fashion ("For Bike Equity, Look Past Infrastructure," CityLab; Understanding Barriers to Bicycling in Low-Income Communities of Color, Community Cycling Center of Portland).
For example, Toronto has programs supporting introducing cycling to immigrants ("A Toronto program uses two wheels to connect newcomers to the city," Canadian Immigrant). The Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals sponsors the Women Cycling Project, and there is the Latino women's biking group in LA, which was featured in the documentary "Ovarian Psycos | Film About Women of Color Bike Brigade." A community health initiative in Fort Collins, Colorado offers cycle training in Spanish ("Program promotes biking for Latinos," Coloradoan).
There is the Black Women Bike program, which started in DC. Kidical Mass promotes family biking. Etc.
7. Senior cycling promotion programs. While it's better to promote biking at an earlier age, so that as they age into the senior demographic people continue to bike, I have come across some senior oriented bike programs, although they are more recreationally oriented.
I talked to these people outside a Starbucks. The man said he started cycling in earnest after he retired. It took him a while to figure out that he was excluding his wife by doing so on his own, so they got a tandem bike and ride everywhere, to the grocery store, the recreation center for swimming, etc.
For example, retirees in the Blue Bell community in Greater Philadelphia created the "Old Spokes" club which holds rides every couple weeks in area parks ("Freewheelers The Old Spokes, members of a bicycling club, venture from their retirement community to cruise the region's byways," Philadelphia Inquirer).
This 90-year-old on a tricycle is a total badass," Grist.
Why not refocus such programs towards transportational cycling, including adult three-wheel bikes and tandems?
8. Bikes as tools for improving access to jobs. So many times I read articles about the difficulty people have getting to and from work when they don't own a car and they rely on transit, and I wonder "why don't they get a bike?"
The Community Cycling Center of Portland has a program that outfits low income residents with bikes and all the requisite support equipment and training, so that they can cycle safely to work.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch ("Notable Gifts: Capital One donates 20 bikes, gear"), Capital One is supporting a similar program there. From the article:
Twenty bicycles donated by Capital One will provide greater access to jobs for participants in the Workforce Pipeline Program at Richmond’s Center for Workforce Innovation. Capital One volunteers assembled the bicycles with assistance from RideRichmond. Capital One donations also provided safety gear such as helmets for the riders and lights and locks for the bikes.
... A regional study found that nearly 1,000 additional businesses and 18,000 additional jobs are located within 1.5 miles of the end of the bus line, Manion said. “We have had several participants that have lost jobs or been unable to get jobs because of this short distance."
Where there is high station density, it's a great way to bike and you offload storage, parking, fear of theft, and maintenance.
When station density is low and you have to walk long distances between stations and your origin and destination points, or your destination is outside of the system footprint, it's not convenient.
(Which is why this post mostly focuses on having your own bike.)
In Europe, and a couple US cities systems have experienced high ridership. But across the US, even in large cities, bike sharing hasn't been particularly successful and many programs failed.
Other systems, such as DC's, have stagnated in terms of membership growth.
Other than offering occasional discounts, many of the programs are poorly marketed, don't have on-going promotion, and don't do a lot of active marketing and support. E.g., why isn't there a bike share promotion booth at major community festivals?
Most of the programs don't offer orientation classes and training for people new to cycling. Although some programs, like Divvy in Chicago, and London's program are much more active when it comes to promotion.
I suppose this shouldn't be a surprise because government agencies tend to be not great at marketing (cf. "social marketing," "nonprofit marketing" and "sustainable behavior" approaches).
(Note that expansion of bike sharing systems is often supported by the FTA Job Access and Reverse Commute program.)
10. Discounted bike sharing memberships on a means-tested basis. More bike sharing programs provide discounted memberships for low income residents. the second least expensive program is Boston's which charges $5, as does Divvy in Chicago, but Montgomery County Maryland goes further with their MC Liberty program, which provides free membership (for a limited number of participants, who qualify).
11. Cycle access programs on college campuses and by large employers. At some colleges, rather than deploying technologically complicated and expensive sharing systems (although many colleges have bike sharing programs), instead they assign a student a bike for a semester for a small fee (or even free), along with a lock and helmet, and usually repair services are included. Programs are supported by an on-campus repair shop.
At UCLA they call it the Bike Library ("Bikes all rented out at UCLA Bike Library," Daily Bruin), same at UC Santa Cruz, while at North Central College in Illinois, use of a "rental" Cardinal Red Bike is free, but they have a small number of bikes.
I haven't heard of large business sites that do long term bike loans, but there is no reason why they couldn't.
12. Campus specific bike share programs. A variant is college or worksite bike share programs. Many colleges offer this and so do some large employer campuses, like Google.
Some of the college programs will include off-campus stations, and may allow local residents not affiliated with the college to participate.
In community bike sharing programs, often students get a membership discount, and some universities--Harvard is the only one I know of--have paid for the installation of stations serving their campus.
13. Employer and college-assisted buying programs. Many colleges have bike shops that offer discounted purchase programs. The Fuji bicycle group has a program to do this, called Fuji University. Working with a local bike shop, the University of Utah even encourages units of the university to purchase e-bikes for use in conducting daily business.
The UK Cycle to Work Scheme enables bike purchases through a payroll deduction scheme. Ireland has created a similar program.
The League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly Business program does ask questions concerning provision of purchase assistance and other benefits around bicycles and equipment.
Fuji should extend their program to large employers.
14. Credit union loans to buy bikes. Banks, financing companies, and credit unions are known for providing loans to buy cars. More recently, some credit unions have begun programs providing loans for buying bikes. For example, at Virginia Credit Union, they will provide a loan of as little as $100 to buy a bike, and they will include the cost of a lock, helmet, and other accessories.
Bank on DC program.
Programs like this have a kind of microcredit/microfinance element and can be an inducement to set up a bank account.
15. Bike donations for children. The Austin American-Statesman ("Build-A-Bike lunches at ABGB: Eat, drink, donate bikes to kids") reports on an interesting holiday fundraiser for the Ghisallo Bicycle Initiative. From the article:
Austin Beer Garden Brewing Co., or ABGB, is teaming with the Ghisallo Cycling Initiative to host Build-A-Bike holiday lunches during the first three weeks of December. Groups can purchase one or two bikes for donation.
Party goers show up for pizza and beer, and mechanics from Ghisallo help them assemble bikes that will be given to children at Perez Elementary School, which serves families hard hit by the latest round of flooding on Onion Creek. The bikes, SE Soda Pop models, will cost the group the discounted price of $170 each and Ghisallo will provide a helmet, bell, lights and lock for each one. Party goers pay for their own food and drink.What a great program!
16. Bike bundling programs in public housing. I've suggested this to a couple of public housing organizations but never got a response. The idea would be to develop programs similar to bike library programs at colleges as described above.
How to: Bike Parking" guide by David Baker Architects.
The idea is that public housing residents could get bike access in a similar way, and it could be bundled into the cost of renting an apartment.
Of course, there would need to be protected and very secure bike parking installed as part of the program.
Roll It Forward program, and Philadelphia has done so as well ("City crews collect 73 abandoned bikes," Philadelphia Inquirer) but not as systematically.
18. Short term on-site bicycle provision. Some office buildings (Active Transportation and Real Estate: The Next Frontier, Urban Land Institute) and hotels ("Hip hotels are rolling out high-style bicycles for guests," Dallas Morning News; "Hotels Offer Bikes, Cars and Sometimes Boats to Its Guests," New York Times) have bikes that workers can use during the day or guests can use during their stay.
And at least one homeless shelter ("New bike share program gives One80 Place's homeless a way around the city," WCIV-TV) in Charleston, SC.