Can Chicago Build a Bike-Share System That Works for Everyone?

It’s an exciting time in Chicago, as the city gears up for a major bike-share launch this spring that will make 4,000 bikes at 400 stations available to the public.

The city of Chicago has been hosting public meetings to determine the best locations for bike-share stations. Photo: ##http://gridchicago.com/2012/bike-share-not-white-share-can-chicagos-program-achieve-diversity/##Grid Chicago##

City officials are thinking ahead, trying to avoid a problem that has plagued other systems: namely, the failure to make bike-share useful to residents from every walk of life. John Greenfield at Grid Chicago describes how local officials are trying to ensure that it’s not just the affluent who reap the benefits of bike-share in the Windy City:

While bike sharing has great potential, the credit-card requirement and other factors have been obstacles to attracting a diverse membership in other cities. In Denver, where roughly fifty percent of residents are people of color, almost ninety percent of bike-share users are non-Hispanic whites, according to a member survey. “Our demographic profile is nothing to be proud of, and we know that,” acknowledged Parry Burnap, head of Denver’s program, at a recent urban planning conference. “We are mostly male, mostly white, mostly wealthy, mostly well educated.”

CDOT deputy commissioner Scott Kubly helped launch Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C., and he’s managing Chicago’s new system. When I called to ask how he’ll ensure bike-share membership here mirrors our city’s ethnic and economic mix, he acknowledged this was also an issue in D.C. “Growing bike share will be easy in some parts of Chicago,” he says. “So I’m really focused on building membership in parts of town where it will be hardest.”

“The big challenge is how do we handle liability for folks who are unbanked,” Kubly adds. In D.C. this issue was addressed via the Bank on D.C. initiative, in which low-income residents received a free Capital Bikeshare membership after completing a financial literacy course. Liability for the membership was shared by the individual, the city, a bank and Alta Bicycle Share, the Portland, Oregon-based company that runs the D.C. system and will be operating Chicago’s as well. He’s currently looking into partnering with community organizations and churches here to provide bike share access for people who don’t have credit cards.

Chicago is also making efforts to supply a broad spectrum of neighborhoods with plenty of bike-share stations, Greenfield reports. In addition, the city has developed a program to train low-income youth for some of the 150 jobs the new system is expected to create.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Spacing Toronto says that erstwhile Mayor Rob Ford’s undoing was simply his inability to follow the rules. The Greater Marin advises readers to just avoid walking in Sonoma County, where not only are the roads dangerous but the police department policy seems to blame cyclists and pedestrians in the event of a collision. And the Political Environment shares an example of what passes for an air quality program in too many government agencies around the country.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Why Aren’t American Bike-Share Systems Living Up to Their Potential?

|
As policy director at the New York City Department of Transportation from 2007 to June, 2014, Jon Orcutt shepherded the nation’s largest bike-share system through the earliest stages of planning, a wide-ranging public engagement process, and, last year, the rollout of hundreds of Citi Bike stations. That makes Orcutt, formerly of Transportation Alternatives and the Tri-State Transportation […]

Seven Ways to Make Bike-share More Accessible

|
Bike-sharing has been one of the most rapidly spreading transportation innovations in American cities over the past few years; scarcely a month goes by without a new city announcing its intentions to develop a system. And with good reason: Bike-share doesn’t cost much to install and operate, and it’s healthy — for cities and people. But […]

Chicago Takes Tentative First Step Toward Bike-Sharing

|
A pilot station for Chicago’s proposed bike-sharing program, on display a couple of weeks ago. Photo: vizcha via Flickr Public bike-sharing is coming to yet another American city.  The concept, first proven in Lyon, France and made famous by Paris’s Vélib, offers members easy access to public bikes at stations across a city. With bike […]

Midwestern Cities Race to Adopt, and Grow, Bike-Share

|
Pittsburgh was the newest city to announce its bike-share plans this week, when it confirmed the city would add a 500-bike system by the spring of next year. But nearby Columbus, Ohio, will beat them to the punch. Ohio’s capital city is planning to add 300 bikes this summer. Meanwhile, Indianapolis’ plan was to roll out […]

How Do You Grade a Bike-Share System?

|
Bike-share has exploded in the last decade — and in North America, just in the last few years. What started as a shaky concept in Amsterdam in the 1960s has matured into a viable transit option worldwide, with 600 systems offering more than 600,000 bikes. The nonprofit Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP) is […]