Chickens, local food, bus GPS tracking – can bike sharing, the nation’s hot new trend, be far behind here in Sarasota? This blog post looks at that very question.
What is Bike Sharing?
A bicycle sharing system is a service in which bicycles are made available for shared use to individuals who do not own them. They are typically launched as public-private ventures Early bike share programs were beater bikes on college campuses that were available for free. Paris’ Velib is touted as the world’s first large scale system. Capital Bikeshare in Washington DC has grown tremendously, buoyed by notorious auto congestion, good trails and paths and a supportive tourist market. NYC and San Francisco are working on systems. If you feel a bike sharing obsession coming on at the end of paragraph two here, the Bike Sharing Blog has tons of fodder.
How do they work?
Cities or campuses select key areas to locate bike share stations. The bikes are unlocked when a rider supplies information through an electronic kiosk. Trips can be round trip or from one station to another. Price structures offer hourly and daily rates. While maps are posted on kiosks and available in printed form, mobile apps offer even higher levels of service, showing the location of the nearest station, information on availability, and membership rewards points.
What is the Best Peer Bike share for Sarasota?
DECO bike in Miami is probably the best case study for us. Launched in March 2011, DECO bike got off to a slow start, in part because advertising revenue did not cover costs as expected. However, one year later, the system has logged 717,522 rides and is looking to expand. Recently DECO bike teamed with Hertz on Demand to increase visibility for tourists and patrons who also use their car share service. DECObike also offers a membership program to local residents.
Pricing is $5/hour and $24 for an all day rental. The program has special monthly passes for residents priced at $25-$35 for rental schedules. The city features the bike share program prominently on its tourism page and offers special tours.
What would it take here?
Sarasota has some of the best ingredients for a successful bike share program: we are flat, have good weather almost all year long, we have great market segments (tourists and students), and good bike infrastructure in certain areas. But those ingredients don’t spell feasibility in and of themselves (to see what a feasibility analysis looks like, go to the Providence R.I. report here, and a recent presentation from San Francisco here). The number and location of stations, public and private sector marketing, ad dollars, and seed money are all the greatest challenges to meet up front. The system has to get the pricing right and Sarasota is missing a high employment core that seems to be a critical factor in other places. Whether tourists could make up this difference is a big question.
What are our strongest arguments?
- Sports and Eco Tourism – Sarasota is not only good at tourism, we are expanding into market segments, namely sports and eco-tourism. Bike share would support both these efforts.
- Legacy Trail – Communities envy this type of infrastructure, which would be a great way to allow a “tour de Parks” every day.
- Sarasota and her Islands – Bike share between St Armand’s and the mainland would be a big help in reducing auto traffic.
- The North Trail – the North Trail desperately needs more people on the streets and fewer people whizzing by on cars. The North Trail also needs more options for students, who live in an environment that is urban enough to provide a lot of uses but too spread out for convenient walk trips.
Photos from DECObike and SF MTA.