How Giving Bike Share Prime Real Estate Attracts More Riders

One of the more successful stations in MInneapolis' Nice Ride system is parked right in front of the Birchwood Cafe. Photo: Bill Lindeke
One of the more successful stations in Minneapolis’s Nice Ride system is parked right in front of the Birchwood Cafe. Photo: Bill Lindeke/Streets.mn

We’ve written before about how bike-share “station density” — how closely together stations are placed — is a key variable in how successful systems are in attracting riders.

Here’s a new theory on how station locations can have an impact on bike-share use. Bill Lindeke at Streets.mn says it matters where stations are placed within commercial sites and public areas. The more prominent the better, he says, citing the example of a cafe in Minneapolis:

It was outside the Birchwood where I first noticed the odd psychological effect of bike share stations. I was sitting sipping a coffee in the sunshine, watching people ride and walk up and down the street, and the new kiosk made quite an impression before the front door. As couples walked past, they would stop and gaze at it for a few key seconds.

“Hm, maybe someday I’ll try that out,” I heard someone say.

“How do they work,” couples would murmur to each other

The key thing for me was that these were people, so I thought, that would never bike around South Minneapolis on their own. Even if you never use it, the Nice Ride station breaks down a psychological barrier between us and them, the bicycle people and the rest of us. It offers a gateway into an intimidating world, an exciting potential that is really helpful for forwarding conversations about urban bicycling past a divisive impasse.

And unlike almost every other small business, the Birchwood puts its bike rack and its Nice Ride station right before the front door, taking up (at least) two prime parking spots. That sends a message of welcoming, and amplifies the feeling of comfort that becomes so crucial to actually changing behavior.

According to Nice Ride director Bill Dossett, and the other staff that chatted with us at length, some stations in seemingly sensible locations — say by a LRT stop or along a bike route — have low performance because of their atmospherics. If the stop is in the middle of a large parking lot, tucked into an alley, or at a chaotic intersection, people are far less likely to use it.

Elsewhere on the Network today: Seattle Bike Blog reports that a local cyclist has prevailed in a legal battle — with important legal repercussions — over injuries she sustained on a recreational trail. The Urbanist looks at criticisms of the transportation bill moving toward passage in Washington. And the Bike League explains how the University of Wisconsin at Madison received “gold” status as a bike-friendly campus.

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