Thursday 31 July 2014

Solutions for using your own bike instead of public bike share

Summary: Public bike share systems have induced people to cycle for some city trips who previously haven't done so. However, virtually all of these public bike share systems are not able to provide a service as extensive, reliable and high quality as users would like as there are many challenges and the service costs are high. This post provides guidance on how people in certain situations can use their own bikes or other alternatives to obtain the benefits of cycling without relying on public bike share.

Capital Bikeshare on the Mall
Flickr CC by 2.0: Mr.TinDC

Related Posts:
Melbourne bike share is useful for tourists but not yet for most residents

1. What are the common impediments to cycling that bike share solves?
- Mia Birk is president of Alta Bike Share which runs public bike share systems in New York, Toronto, San Francisco, Washington DC, Boston, Chicago, and Melbourne. She advises:
By addressing common impediments to urban biking—like the hassles of maintenance, storage and theft—Birk saw bike share as the way to convince Americans that cycling wasn’t just for the “wealthier guy in spandex.”
Next City: The business of bike share (pdf)
2. The risk of your own bike being stolen can be significantly minimised
- I've detailed all of the methods here: How to prevent your bike being stolen. They include using an inexpensive bike and locking properly with a U lock and possibly a chain as well.

- If locking it up on the street and the chance of theft is high, then the cost of a basic, second hand bike that is as good as a bike share bicycle doesn't need to be much more than an annual bike share membership.

3. Pursue all secure bike parking options available
- Many people who would prefer to ride their own bike don't do so because their workplace or destination doesn't have its own secure bike parking. However, there are various alternate options to find secure bike parking, including in other buildings and car parks. See: Where to park if commuting to Melbourne CBD

4. Prioritise housing and employment/study options that provide secure and convenient bike parking
- Not having a secure, convenient and quick-to-access place to store your bike at home or where you work/study is a major impediment but you should prioritise this in your decisions. For instance in choosing your accommodation. See: Choose housing that is designed for sustainable transport

- Where you are stuck with unresolved bike parking issues, make the effort to improve the situation. For example via discussion with your landlord, modifications to your home or exploiting underutilised space in common areas.

5. Get a low maintenance bike and equip it with puncture-resistant tyres
- It is perfectly feasible for everyone to obtain a suitable, low maintenance bike, put puncture-resistant tyres on it and have very little maintenance to do - all of which they can learn to do themselves or get done at low cost. Moreover, bike share systems don't really solve the maintenance problem as these bikes are exposed to more damage, wear, rough treatment and weather than private bikes.

- For guidance on equipping your bike with puncture-resistant tyres see: Puncture-proof tyres are the key to reliable transport

- For advice on buying an affordable, utility bike and equipping it with essential gear see the "buying a bike and gear" category of this blog.

- Single speed bikes are a great option for many cyclists seeking a very low maintenance and robust bike. See: When is a Single Speed bike most suitable and how to make the most of one

- High quality maintenance videos and guides can be found here: The best how-to guides for common maintenance tasks

6. Learn how to protect your own bike from weather and dirt
- Bike share systems don't solve this problem as these bikes are typically unsheltered from weather and often water, snow, dirt or debris isn't removed for some time.

- There are many steps you can take to protect your own bike from wear, rust and damage. See: Protecting your bike from the weather and dirt

7. Resolve any feasible constraints preventing you riding all the way to your destination
- Many bike share users utilise public transport for the greater length of their trip and bike share for the beginning and/or end. In many cases the distance, route safety or circumstances (going out at night) make cycling all of the way undesirable or impractical. However, for some cyclists these constraints for at least some trips (medium distance, daytime, safe enough routes exist) can be resolved. See these posts:
The most important tips on how to ride safely
Map your common trips to see how to really make cycling feasible
> The "routes and maps" category of this blog

8. If you have to catch public transport try and take a suitable bike with you; Consider a folding bike if size is an issue
- People often use bike share in combination with public transport, but this usage isn't always problem free. For example, the high costs of maintaining bike share systems in winter given much lower usage and revenue are an ongoing challenge:
“Quick bike rides are usually the perfect way to avoid being out in the cold too long,” Werbe Fuentes says. “We thought it’d be easier, faster and less freezing to take Citi Bike instead of trying to walk here from the subway,” about a half-mile away. Instead, the pair had wandered around the neighborhood looking for an ice-free parking spot for long enough to make them wholly regret their decision to utilize New York’s year-old bike-share system. “I don’t know who’s supposed to remove the snow from the docks where you put your bike, but no one has,” Blatt says. When they eventually found spots, the snow made it hard to tell whether their bikes were properly docked. (Blatt’s wasn’t.) They hurried off to the show anyway, now running late, and the following month, Blatt discovered an unexpected charge from Citi Bike: about $100 in late fees for a 52-hour bike ride she never went on.
Next City: The business of bike share (pdf)
- If you can take a suitable bike on public transport with you this is a great alternative to depending on bike share either to get to the public transport or to travel the last part to your destination. Combining your own bike with public transport use is often feasible and just needs some conscientious planning. See: The distance of your common trips does matter or you need good connections with public transport

- If the size of your bike is an obstacle to taking it on public transport consider using a folding bike as they can be readily taken on trains, trams and buses. These can be bought new for as little as $300 and can usually fold/unfold in 30 seconds. They are particularly suitable when the bike trip distance is quite short. Several types, such as the Strida, can be wheeled along when folded. Remember you don't always need to carry your folding bike inside your destination, you can lock them outside with a U lock.
> Strida folding bikes in Australia

Strida Bikes Australia - Gallery

9. Keep a "beater bike" permanently where you most frequently need bike share
- A "beater bike" is a cheap bike that is harder to ruin and will keep working even though it is left out in the weather for extended periods and may not be repaired or well maintained.

- Beater bikes are perfect for those who use public transport or non-bike means to get to a part of the city that is a fair way from home but then often want to use a bike for short trips around that area. Beater bikes are also useful if you wish to ride to a destination but are not sure if you will be riding home and may need to leave it parked overnight.

- You can find advice on obtaining a suitable beater bike below:
> NY Times: Beater Bikes, the Cheap Workhorses of Cycling
> VeloJoy: Why settle for an old beater bike when you can own a new one?

10. Investigate a secure enough spot to park your bike if you need to leave it overnight occasionally
- One major reason for using bike share is flexibility - you can use a bike if and when it makes sense but not if it doesn't. For instance, many people are often happy to ride to their destination during daytime but may not wish to ride home at night or after too many drinks or if the weather is bad.

- The major problem is a lack of an obvious, free, secure, undercover place to park your bike in the parts of cities where people tend to stay out in. Nevertheless, there are potential solutions you can explore such as leaving your bike in your workplace's garage, another nearby garage/carpark or finding a part of town that is secure enough to leave bikes locked overnight.

- For occasional bike parking overnight you don't need an ideal place to park it but you will likely not want to leave it on just any street. Hence, a little investigation of the "good enough, near enough" options beforehand will allow you to ride your own bike more often and worry less about theft.

Further Info:
Next City: The business of bike share (pdf)

In N.Y. Apartment Buildings, Bicycles Muscle In

Lock8 - Smart bike locks

eBay - Your Guide to Buying a Folding Bike

Bikes For The Rest Of Us: Bikesharing - try it!