Within the course of my daily conversations, I often get asked about the need to create parking infrastructure for privately owned bikes– the assumption being that cyclists have, or will, switch over to CitiBike, the city’s wildly popular bikeshare system.
Though I am a huge fan of the bikeshare movement, it’s worth remembering that traditional private bikes still account for the vast majority of cycling trips within the city, as well as a large segment of market growth over the years, a reality that isn’t set to change anytime soon. Cities would be best to design infrastructure for both bikeshare and personal bikes.
In space below, I will share some data, taken directly from NYCDOT’s Cycling in the City report from 2018 and 2017.
Today’s NYC Cycling Landscape
- In 2016, the last year that we have publicly available data for both Citibike and the number of estimated overall cycling trips in New York, there were an estimated 460,000 daily cycling trips and 38,491 Citi Bike trips. At this ratio, privately owned bicycles would account for 91.5% of cycling trips.
Even when pairing the higher citi-bike totals from 2017 with the projected bike trip data from 2016 (2017 bike trip projections were not available) non-bikeshare trips still account for more than 91% of total bike trips.
- According to NYCDOT, there were 40,000 more average daily cycling trips in 2016 than in 2014. During the same period, citi-bike saw an increase of 16,319 rides, which account for about 40% of growth in overall cycling in the city during that period.
One on hand, it’s amazing that 10,000 bikes accounted for such a large share of growth in the market. However, a majority of the growth in the cycling market still occurs from those who are relying on their own private bicycles.
Complimentary not Competing
Despite what some may think, privately owned bicycles are not in competition with bikeshare. The two cycling modes provide their users with very different, and complementary value propositions.
Bikeshare, fills an important first mile/last mile gap in the public transportation network, and thus excels as a multi-modal form of transportation. For those who use subways, ferries or busses for transportation, bikeshare can reduce a 17 minute walk to the final destination into a 5 minute bike ride. Bikeshare can also be a viable option for some commuters, who are taking trips of under 2 miles. To encourage this type of usage, Citibike has a time limit of between 30 minutes (for single rides and day passes) and 45 minutes (for annual subscribers). In short, Bikeshare is for quick, short trips.
Traditional bikes, on the other hand, tend to provide a far superior cycling experience, with better handling, gears and faster speeds. Like many, I use both bikeshare, as well as my own private bicycle. Citibike is very convenient, especially when I’m walking a distance from the Subway or taking a quick jaunt across town for a meeting, but the clunky 45-lb bikes are like tanks compared to my 20-lb road bike. My bike is, through months of customizations, personalized to my height and preferences. My well-maintained frame, and pumped tires, provides a smooth, fun ride each time. Yes, I can tolerate bikeshare for short distances, but for daily commuting or longer trips, I very much prefer my own personal bicycle.
Bikeshare: A Gateway To Ownership
Formost bikeshare is a great first/last mile solution; great for quick, short trips or the first leg of a longer journey. Many cities have effectively positioned bikeshare stations in close proximity to major transportation hubs in order to maximize this advantage.
Bikeshare systems are also an effective gateway to urban cycling in general. Those who would not normally ride, are attracted by the low cost and convenience of Citibike and similar systems. After a period of regular usage, they become comfortable with the idea of urban cycling, and often decide to invest in their own high-end bike.
This “Bikeshare Gateway” phenomenon was first catalogued in Washington DC after the launch of Capital Bikeshare when the area’s bikeshops saw substantial increase in business due to renewed interest in cycling.
My own conversations with local bikeshops have also shed some light on this trend. Though sales of entry-level bicycles have stagnated or declined, sales of pricier, high end bicycles continue to grow, leading some shops to focus entirely on more expensive inventory.
Why does this matter?
When we think about building infrastructure for the growing micro-mobility market, it’s important that policy-makers, property owners and civic leaders think dynamically about how planned infrastructure best serves the modes of transportation that are most used by the community. Specifically, a bikeshare station is not enough to address the needs of the cycling community. Bike racks (short term parking) and secure bike parking facilities (medium and long term parking) are also required.
Featured photo courtesy of Dan Nguyen on Flickr