House Bill Proposes Big Jump in Bike-Share Funding

Photo:  Wash Cycle
Photo: Wash Cycle

A group of federal lawmakers is trying to make it easier for cities to add and expand bike share — by treating it more like public transit.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Florida) — the chairs of Congress’ Bike Caucus — this week introduced a bill known as the Bikeshare Transit Act of 2019. They proposed changing federal laws so that bike-share programs would be eligible for federal transit money and for a large-grant program that is dedicated (theoretically anyway) to improving air quality. If it is approved, the new law would make billions in new federal funds available to support bike share.

“Our legislation removes barriers facing new and existing bike-share projects seeking additional funding, giving more people options for efficient, carbon-free transportation,” Blumenauer said in a statement.

According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, about 36.5 million trips were taken in 2018 on bike share, the vast majority in just a small handful cities that have made sizable investments in station-based systems.

11 thoughts on House Bill Proposes Big Jump in Bike-Share Funding

  1. We badly need this in Austin as our bikes are mostly old and rusty and non electric vs other BCycle cities.

  2. It’s weird that you can use pre-tax money for trains, buses, and even car-parking, but not for a bike-share membership. It should be treated like any other monthly bus pass.

    Actually, why doesn’t a bus or train pass include bike-share membership for that last-mile?

  3. Really? Why do we not spend that money on bicycling? Why is it going to for profit bikeshare companies instead of building bike infrastructure that we can all benefit from?

    I was wondering why ridehail and bikeshare companies started pumping huge donations into bike advocacy organizations last year. Now I know. It was to buy support and prime the pump for legislation they’d profit from.

  4. Tauru is correct. Spending money on bikeshare benefits large companies and those privileged to live and able/willing to use the systems on existing infrastructure. Politically it’s a classic move. Doesn’t disturb the status quo of car dominance either, like bike lanes would.

  5. I disagree @Tauru and @Cyrille. This is no worse than the money spent on paying for parking garages.

    Additionally, Bike Share doesn’t need to be run by Lyft or Uber. And more bike riders make it easier to advocate for more infrastructure. I think it is a smart move – but we shouldn’t only fund these sorts of projects.

  6. From the house bill:

    “…bikeshare projects, including any project or activity carried out to facilitate a bicycle rental operation that makes bicycles available for public transportation, allows riders to pick up and drop off bicycles, serves a de-fined geographic area, and facilitates the transit of individuals between various points in such geographic area”

    That seems to include funding bike lanes. I’m in favor.

  7. @Jonathan Krall
    It doesn’t say that at all. It says, “any project or activity carried out to facilitate a bicycle rental operation”

    Please explain how you read this to mean inclusion bike lanes.

    PS props for looking up the actual text of the bill though.

  8. @tauru
    Because a bikeshare operation won’t work if there is nowhere safe to ride and because building a bike lane is a “project.”

  9. @Jonathan Krall
    That is extremely tenuous. And it’s only an advantage if funding sources that are currently off limits for legitimate bicycle infrastructure projects suddenly qualify.

    Two problems though.
    1. The aggressive corporations like Lyft and Uber that have bought up bikeshare will lobby for scarce funding and it will go to pay for bikeshare projects, and ultimately to shareholders and Venture Capital investors rather than to bike lanes.

    2. If there’s funding that bike lanes, etc. and other projects that currently don’t qualify for, then the legislation should just enable that, instead of creating a potential hungry money hole.

    Face it, this legislation was written by Uber and Lyft or their associates. It’s a money grab that is in line with their business plan, exposed in Lyft’s public disclosure during their IPO in which they admitted that long term profitability relies on dismantling public transit.

  10. Not all bike share is run by Uber and Lyft , and frankly some of the best systems are publicly or non-profit managed in the US. There are still many communities with public and non profit bike share systems that would benefit greatly for what is proposed in this legislation. As someone who built the lion share of a municipally owned and non-profit operated bike share system in a mid-sized city using federal Congestion Mitigation/Air Quality funding, I used those dollars to purchase stations, bikes and prep station sites. But it would have been great if we could have used some of those grant funds to cover system operations for up to three years. CMAQ funding can be used to fund “operations/maintenance” of transit and vanpool projects as well as capital costs like buses and vans. Yet bike share is being treated differently – only capital expenditures, no support for O & M. I view part of this bill as attempting to extend some measure of consistency about how these forms of public transit are treated. I am concerned about the use of FTA funds though. I think it is appropriate for bike share but we need to make sure the FTA pot it actually made larger rather than more players taking bites at the same size pie.

    And some bike share systems and transit systems have been working together for quite some time, including combined fare cards or fare payments that provide access to both – Milwaukee, Ft Worth, Boise, LA, Salt Lake, etc. to name a few. All of these are more “traditional” bike share systems but have the support of their municipalities behind them to ensure public transit style service that is consistently available to the public.

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