When Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton announced that the City of Phoenix would be launching a new bike share program at last month's Pedal Craft 2, the local bike community grew abuzz over the possibilities of adding a per-per-use fleet of bikes throughout the city.
Bike share programs have been discussed by many Valley communities over the past decade, and Phoenix even had an early program in the late 90's that quickly saw its purple fleet disappear to thieves. Thanks to advanced technology and GPS tracking, theft is no longer a concern.
But that doesn't mean that a new program would be guaranteed a success. Here's a look at five other programs in cities similar to Phoenix and what we would like to see here.
No specifics are yet in place for the Phoenix program, so a vendor partner and locations are still very much to be determined. But, it makes sense to place fleet racks in proximity to light rail and bus stations, as well as a concentration along the central corridor between downtown and Camelback Road.
Denver - Like Phoenix, Denver is a sprawling metropolis with a fairly young downtown center. Granted, LoDo, Denver's downtown district, got its revitalization a few years prior to Phoenix, our urban core's development has followed a very similar path.
The Denver B-Cycle program has its primary cluster of bike stations throughout LoDo and the surrounding downtown neighborhoods allowing Denverites to take their light rail or bus into the city center and bike between bars, stadiums, museums and galleries.
Tucson - The Old Pueblo's bike share program is very small, but it was launched to service a very specific demographic - municipal employees. If a municipality is going to support a bike program, why not make it a benefit for their workforce, thereby encouraging these folks to lead by example.
Granted, Tucson's program is very different than a typical bike share fleet, as they are standard 3-speed comfort bikes that employees can check out and use for getting to meetings, personal appointments or mid-day wellness rides. The program is still in a pilot phase and is not open to the general public, but this seems like a necessary option for Phoenix's program.
Portland - Remarkably, the city typically considered the top bike-friendly town in the country is just launching their program next spring. But they have created a web page that allows anyone to suggest where to locate their bike stations throughout the city. Genius!
How often have we seem city planners, who are very smart engineers and have access to a never-ending library of research, still place something in a spot that makes zero sense to those of us who use the system? If only interested citizens could be afforded this level of input more openly.
Anaheim/Los Angeles - For Southern California's first venture into bike sharing, the state's two top towns of make believe turned to a local Orange County-based company to supply their bikes and stations. Bike Nation, headquartered in Tustin, set up some pilot program stations around the home of the happiest place on Earth this past spring and look to launch a full program in the City of Angels before the end of the year.
Seeing as how most stations are solar powered (we have a few of those types of companies around town) and require, of course, bikes (again, home town builders exist), it would be outstanding if the Phoenix program could keep things local and partner their program with area companies.
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Washington DC/Alexandria - Our nation's capitol is home to our nation's largest bike share fleet and network of stations. With nearly 1,700 bikes located at 110 kiosk stations, virtually every part of the greater DC area is reachable on a bike share bike.
For the Phoenix plan to truly work, it will be key to see their network of rides interface nicely with potential bike share programs in Tempe, Scottsdale and a steadily rejuvenating downtown area of Mesa. Clearly the burden for Valley-wide success shouldn't be on Phoenix's shoulders, but we sure hope they lead an enthusiastic charge to have their fellow cities join the cause.