Bicycle organization working in tandem with government bodies
One organization, the Bikestation Coalition, thinks the answer is yes, and the coalition is partnering with municipalities, transit districts, air-quality management districts, parks and recreation departments and state departments of transportation to build bike storage facilities in 30 U.S. facilities. There now are Bikestation facilities in five California cities and Seattle.
In a typical Bikestation operation, the city or county builds the space (with advice from the group), and Bikestation sometimes manages the facility. The price for bike riders? At Bikestation-run garages—designed to be accessible 24/7 with a smart keycard—it averages $1 a day, $12 a month or $96 a year.
Bikestation, a Long Beach, Calif.-based not-for-profit organization, currently is assisting the District of Columbia in the development of an operating plan for a bike-transit facility next to Union Station, across from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. The facility is expected to open in early 2008.
The organization also is working with transit operators to create bike-transit commuter centers. The reason, according to Bikestation: Connecting bicycles and bicyclists with transit is a natural marriage. Transit can carry many people over greater distances. To make transit as efficient as possible, each transit station needs to be able to draw and carry as many passengers as feasible, the coalition says.
Typically, people will walk up to a half-mile to get to a transit station. By bringing bicycles into the mix, transit system operators can increase the area that a single transit station can draw from to an average of two to three miles, according to Bikestation.
One example of Bikestation’s transit efforts is its Long Beach, Calif., facility on the First Street Transit Mall, which is a gathering place for light rail, buses, pedestrians and a local shuttle that services neighborhoods and key attractions.
Get the wheels turning
In an interview with GovPro.com, Bikestation Coalition Executive Director Andrea White detailed how government officials can get the wheels turning for a bike commuter center in their communities.
“Go through the process of becoming a bicycle-friendly community through the League of American Bicyclists,” White said. “This will not only improve your knowledge about what to do, it will improve your chances to win public funding for your bicycle projects.”
According to White, “Bicycle planning needs to be given serious consideration in conjunction with land-use planning, transportation and codes/legislative policy.
“Hire a bicycle or mobility coordinator, a planner with specific expertise in bicycle planning and engineering/infrastructure,” White explained.
Build it and the bike riders will come
According to White, a bicycle-friendly community requires “a continuous network and beginning-and-end-of-trip facilities.”
“Bike routes frequently suddenly end,” White said. “Can you imagine a street suddenly ending mid-block? Also, the question of where to park safely and securely—short-term and long-term—at both ends of the trip needs to be addressed.
“Go above and beyond. If you want to stand out, if you want to change transportation habits, you need to do things differently than they’ve been done for the last 90 years.”
According to White, the coalition has found “that people will shift from cars to bicycles if the right infrastructure exists.”
“An average of 30 percent of Bikestation users previously drove their car alone to their destination and would still be doing so if the Bikestation were not available,” White said. “An additional 60 percent who were already cycling did so more often because of the convenience. This without any improvement in other infrastructure, so you can imagine how powerful it would be to combine the two efforts and add a strong element of outreach/education.”
How cities and counties benefit from biking
According to the coalition, communities that encourage and enable bicycling experience numerous benefits:
- Cyclists tend to have a higher level of education and disposable income, potentially translating into economic and social benefits.
- Bicycling reduces energy use and is non-polluting. “The users of our six Bikestations (in Berkeley, Embarcadero, Long Beach, Palo Alto and Santa Barbara, Calif., and Seattle) collectively contributed to a reduction in 600,000 pounds of pollutants, 26,000 gallons of gasoline and over 1,300 barrels of oil in 2007 alone,” White explained.
- Bicycles are far easier on roads and other infrastructure than cars, reducing the need for maintenance.
- Due to the high costs of parking, moving just 100 people from cars to bikes translates to $7.5 million in capital savings.
- “Reduction in pollutants reduces asthma and cancer,” White asserted, “and active living contributes to the solution for a range of our most troubling health issues today: obesity, heart attacks, diabetes, etc.”
- Bicyclists interact directly with their environment, creating more friendly and livable communities.
- The most bicycle-friendly cities in the world top the lists of places where people want to live and visit.
What about the costs to make a community more bike-friendly?
“Yes, there are costs, but they are investments with many benefits,” White asserted. “Notwithstanding, bicycle planning and infrastructure costs a fraction of auto planning and infrastructure. For example, often, creating new bicycle lanes requires only paint; the right-of-way already exists in a paved shoulder.”
For more information, visit the Bikestation Coalition Web site.