The Miami City Commission voted today in favor of Decobike as their vendor for a bike sharing system, effectively expanding this successful venture from Miami Beach to the mainland! Soon we will all be able to enjoy cycling across the Venetian on a Decobike. As a Fort Lauderdale resident, I will be happy if I can ride the train or express bus into Miami and use Decobike to get around when I’m here. More details to come later.
I had the opportunity to use Ecobici while in Mexico City for the Walk 21 conference. The system of over 1,000 bicycles has a waiting list for membership and no options for short term memberships, so it caters primarily to residents, not visitors. Thanks to the folks at CTS EMBARQ, conference goers were able to borrow passes for a day to use the system.
From everything I’ve heard and the large numbers of red bikes I saw riding around the city, the system is successful. It has about 9,000 daily riders and the membership was capped at 30,000 members before the recent expansions, with a waiting list of several thousands. The focus of this post is not the ridership or success of the system, but a review of the riding and usability of the system. Since Ecobici is operated by Clear Channel, many of the system characteristics are similar to other Clear Channel systems, such as Washington, D.C.’s old SmartBike system.
Before you question my sanity for riding in a city where drivers don’t even need to pass an exam to obtain a license, know that I had guidance from another conference goer from the U.S. who was living in Mexico, and comfortable enough cycling there to ride his folding bicycle from his hotel to the conference each day. (And hey, I ride in South Florida. People question my sanity all the time for doing that.) Roy Dudley, who works with advocacy group Pro Ciclismo Xalapa, offered to show me around the city by bicycle, so I took him up on that. We walked down to the nearest Ecobici station, where I got to experience checking out a bicycle.
To check out, you tap your annual membership card at the kiosk, which is supposed to tell you which bicycle to pull off the rack. The first time I checked out a bike an operating system error message covered up the message telling me which bicycle to take. At first I thought my tap had not registered, but a second tap told me that I already had a bicycle checked out, so I was left to hunt for the waiting bicycle and hope no one else beat me to it. A tiny green light that is nearly impossible to see in broad daylight indicates that the bike is ready to check out. I went down the line from the kiosk, looking for a small blinking green light on the rack. When I found it, I quickly pulled the bicycle off the rack. Good thing I had a partner to grab the bicycle, though, as I was standing on the wrong side of the rack. The system is just a rail and the bikes latch into it, much like the Decobike system in Miami Beach. The Ecobici kiosk just to the right outside the picture above faces the opposite side of the rail from where the bikes are, which is not the most user friendly set up. After my friend held onto the bicycle, I clambered over the rail in my dress pants to get to the bicycle. I ended up doing this same maneuver twice because this was not the only station with this design flaw.
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South Florida’s second bike sharing program launches today, December 14th! After over a year of planning, permitting, bringing people on board with the concept, and even getting cities to pass new ordinances permitting advertising at their stations, B-Cycle is finally ready to roll out with 200 bikes and 20 stations. That number should expand to 275 within a month.
If you’re able, head to one of the launch events during the day.
|Hollywood:||10:00 AM||326 Johnson St.|
|Fort Lauderdale:||1:30 PM||Esplanade Park|
|Pompano Beach:||4:00 PM|
B-Cycle is funded by a $311,000 FDOT grant funneled through Broward County Transit as well as their own capital. Outside of the one-time FDOT grant that will only go towards 75 of the bikes and a few stations, B-Cycle will be supported by ad revenues and user fees and expects to turn a profit. Their plan is to use that revenue to build out to a 500 bike system over a period of five years. While high profile Public-Private Partnerships (PPP’s) such as I-595 and the Port of Miami Tunnel get a lot of attention, it’s great to see the concept being put to use on a transportation mode that doesn’t involve a motor vehicle.
Usage is essentially membership based and then either free or $.50 for the first 30 minutes any bike is checked out. Memberships start at $5 for a 24 hour pass and go to $45 for an annual pass. The second half hour, and every half hour afterwards, costs more ($3) in order to encourage quick turnaround. You’re probably familiar with the concept if you’ve tried DecoBike or another program, but the idea is to pick up the bike at one location and leave it at another station at your destination. The trip often won’t take more than 20 minutes.
Some have raised concerns that B-Cycle might flounder because it is spread too thin over the county. Most of the stations are focused around downtown and the beach in the three launch cities, however, which should cater to the popular tourist and hangout spots. Check the map showing the stations launching tomorrow in blue at broward.bcycle.com. I’m confident it will be better than many small bike sharing systems, such as the self-proclaimed “first bicycle sharing program in the Southeast” in Spartanburg, South Carolina with 2 stations and about 15 bikes. Try bike sharing in Broward as soon as you can and judge for yourself. B-Cycle will have “ambassadors” at the stations today to show you how to use the system, even if you don’t make it to the launch events.
Disclaimer: I manage the FDOT grant, inherited from my predecessor. Of course, I’d love the project even if I didn’t, as it brings bike sharing closer to me. But don’t take this post to be any kind of official FDOT statement.
Earlier this evening, around 6:15pm, my fiancé and I decided to ride our bicycles to Miami Beach from Brickell. While riding on north on NE 1st Ave we were nearly sided swiped by two cars within a 30 second period. The first car got away. The second driver wasn’t so lucky. I caught up with him and we exchanged a few words. I told him he almost ran me off the road. He literally came within a foot of hitting me. He proceeded to tell me that I had no idea about what I was talking about because he was a lawyer. My fiancé informed him about the three foot law, and his response was to say that we should be riding on the sidewalk. When my fiancé countered that statement with the fact that riding a bicycle on the sidewalk was in fact illegal he decided to roll up his window and speed off. All the while I proceeded to take a photograph of his SUV and write down his tag number down.
He was driving a white BMW X6. I believe the tag number is D59ZE on a Miami Dolphins license plate. My fiancé and I would make two good witnesses.
Boy, it sure would be nice if us bicyclists could do something about this.
As we mentioned back in January, it seems B-cycle is coming to Miami Beach. If you peruse their site, you will find that they are actively lobbying other cities to accept their low-cost, high benefit system of public transportation. We called attention to this months back, and it seems many of you voted for your own city in South Florida. Let this post serve as a reminder to let B-Cycle know you and your city are interested in their services.
Are you frustrated with your bicycle commute? Is there a location sorely in need of bicycling parking? Are you discouraged by even the idea of bicycling in Miami? Do you want to know what the City and County are doing to become more bicycle-friendly?
If you answered yes to any of those questions, by all means come out on June 3rd or June 7 and raise your voice!
Two public workshops are being organized for early June to help update Miami-Dade County’s 2001 bicycle and pedestrian plans. You’ll find maps and experts on hand to inform you about the paths and other facilities already in place or in various stages of design. The planners want public input, so mark one of these dates and make your own arrangements to be there:
- June 3, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Miami City Hall in Coconut Grove.
- June 7, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the South Dade Regional Library, 10750 SW 211th St.
Thanks to Spokes n’ Folks for the announcement.
As some of you might know, Mike and I serve advisory roles in Miami’s newly created Bicycle Action Committee (BAC). The BAC is working on drafting a city of Miami Bicycle Master plan and is looking for any input our citizens wish to provide. You can download this city map, draw on it, and send back your ideas to us (email@example.com) for committee review. You can also leave us comments or email us lists of potential bicycle routes, needed improvements, or any other suggestions. Here is your chance to shape a masterplan which will guide all bicycle related planning for years to come. I’m currently working on my version, which I will publish when complete and will finally get around to creating the Bicycle Rental plan I suggested to Alesh a while ago…
The Seattle streetcar apparently does not use signal preemption. It has to stop at all traffic lights just like a bus would. This is rather ridiculous, as even Bus Rapid Transit usually calls for signals to change to give priority to the bus. An effective Miami streetcar needs to have signal preemption.
Bicyclists don’t like it and organized a protest. Seattle put the tracks on the right side of the road, precariously close to the bicyclists’ paths. Rails in the road parallel to a bicycles direction of travel are a recipe for disaster. As a bicyclist myself, I share their concerns. Streetcars like Seattle’s carry a lot more people than bicycles, and that should give them at least a slightly higher priority. At the same time, streets need to accommodate as many modes as possible-especially if we ever hope to implement a decent bike sharing program. The needs of bicyclists, pedestrians, transit, and auto all need to be considered carefully in the design of Miami’s streetcar. One alternative that has been used before is to put the rails down the middle of the street.
Seattle’s streetcar is expected to help retail business. That’s probably an accurate expectation, but we’ll have to wait and see the numbers. Most rail transit systems have increased local business, and we could probably expect the same in Miami.
There’s one unique issue that Miami will have to worry about. Every time there is a hurricane, the overhead electric lines will have to be repaired. We all know how often that happens! This makes it worthwhile to consider alternate technologies such as Innorail, which have the added benefit of removing unsightly overhead wires.
It sounds like Seattle’s streetcar was packed the first day, just new like light rail systems. Charlotte’s Lynx light rail is exceeding projections in its first weeks. Surely Miami’s streetcar would do the same.
Unlike Paris, however, Washington will initially roll out a “lite” version of bike sharing, offering about 120 bicycles at 10 locations around the city. Details such as costs for usage and membership have not yet been announced. If all goes according to plan, the first phase of the D.C. program could start in March or April of 2008.
As for the bikes themselves, they will be locked into docking stations that will be opened with special cards for members. Washington plans on using a “sturdy” bike, which can be adapted to people of various heights. The bikes will also have some special features including a small front wheel that makes it “more maneuverable, but also quirky enough to discourage theft.” For nighttime safety, all bikes will be equipped with automatic lighting.
Chicago is also in the process of implementing bike sharing. The Windy City is studying two proposals, one from France-based advertising giant JC Decaux — which operates the Paris system — and one from London-based OYBike. The city’s mayor, Richard Daley, has expressed strong interest in a bicycle program, having viewed the Paris system.
“Mayor Daley’s vision is to make Chicago the most bicycle-friendly city in the United States,” said Ben Gomberg, bicycle program coordinator for the city.
“In Chicago, almost 60 percent of all trips by city residents are three miles (nearly five kilometers) or less, which are distances very suited for bicycling. That’s why we’re interested.”
Additionally, Gomberg said Chicago is flat and relatively compact compared to many US cities, making cycling easier. He said city officials see many advantages to the program including improving physical fitness and reducing pollution.
Come on Miami, it’s time to act.
Photo: Courtesy www.flickr.com
Miami, the writing is on the wall. I still challenge the City of Miami Beach to at least pursue a pilot bike sharing program for a few months, even if it’s just confined to South Beach. I am so confident the program would prove to be wildly successful, even without a high level of bicycle infrastructure (bike lanes, bike parking, traffic calming, etc) installed yet. This is the time of year to introduce such a program as well, given the phenomenal weather and massive influx of tourists (see: traffic).
Photo: Walter Parenteau’s Flickr
From NYT columnist Eric Rayman:
The French have embraced communal bike ownership, according to my informal survey of my fellow Vélibiens, as have other Europeans. A culture of Vélibistes is emerging. The camaraderie — a French word that seems to have been invented in anticipation of this new cult — among the riders is entrancing. Riders advise one another on where to find the nearest Vélib docking station, where to park if one is full, and how to find the best routes around the city. When they speak of Vélibs, Parisians smile, even those like a waiter who admitted not having ridden one.
Bertrand Delanoë, the mayor of Paris, has just declared his intention to run for re-election, and the French newspapers, which are known to mix their opinions with their news to a degree that The New York Post would envy, have already pronounced him unbeatable.
Paris has clearly shown that people are more than willing to use alternative forms of transportation such as bicycles when given the opportunity. Bike-sharing would reduce congestion, calm traffic, and ease parking pressure, which should all be high priorities for any Mayor or elected official. And, it’s great because bikes allow us to be so much more intimate with our cities while still moving at moderate speeds. Imagine how nice it would be for tourists to visit Miami and not feel obliged to rent a car.
Photo courtesy of www.20minutes.fr
I definitely recommend checking it out, so you have a better understanding of the system and can clearly describe it at planning/bike workshops.
When Paris unveiled its massive bike-sharing program earlier this month, it was the largest in the world, proving to be the envy of other global cities.
Beijing recently announced its plan to have 50,000 bikes available for share by 2008, when they will be hosting the Summer Olympics. The bike-sharing program is expected to take a bite out of traffic congestion and air pollution, which are becoming increasingly damaging problems as more people drive in the city.
Fifty-thousand bikes in a city of 17 million may seem insignificant, but it’s all part of a larger transportation strategy, which includes expanding the subway system to be one of the world’s greatest. It may also include odd-even day driving privileges, where license plates would be divided by odd and even numbers so that only half of the city’s motorists could legally drive each day. This hinges on the success of a four-day pilot program that was completed with mixed results earlier this month.
According to experts, eliminating 1.3 million cars from the streets of Beijing would translate into a 40% cut in carbon dioxide emissions. How does this relate to Miami? Well, beside serving as another example of a another city implementing bike-sharing, it’s very important in the global context of climate change. If China, which per capita only emits a tiny fraction of carbon dioxide that the United States does, continues to rapidly increase vehicle miles traveled, it will make it almost impossible to stabilize global CO2 levels at 550ppm (the largely agreed upon threshold for stemming the worst effects of climate change). Given the geography of South Florida, we should be very much concerned about Chinese emissions and sustainability.
It’s all interconnected.
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