COVID Place making
May 1, 2020

How will bikeshare perform in a post-covid city?

Maybe pretty well.

From The Cityfix:

Reviving Bike Sharing as a Reliable, Low-Carbon Mobility Mode

Unlike public transport, the pandemic actually reignited interest in dockless bike sharing, an industry that had been experiencing a notable contraction in China. During the 50-day public transport lockdown in Wuhan, Meituan Bike (formerly Mobike) provided a remarkable 2.3 million trips in the city. As China’s economy re-opens, bike sharing appears to be back on the rise.  … ride volume in Beijing has increased 120-187%, compared to before the pandemic. …

It seems increasingly likely that this surge in biking is more than a temporary phenomenon. Evidence suggests that cyclists are riding longer distances directly to their final destinations, not just for first- and last-mile connections. …

Feeling safe is also important for riders, suggesting cities may need to invest in safe cycling infrastructure to protect riders as motor vehicle traffic returns.

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Cities around the world are trying to figure out the best way to react in today’s strange new world which is flooded with effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. People are being urged by public health experts to stay home, to flatten the curve. And while many people are doing just that, others still rely on various modes of transportation for their essential trips to get to work, shop for groceries, or whatever their need may be.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) recently released their own COVID-19 Transportation Response Center. This online hub acts as a resource for transportation staff, officials, leaders, and of course, anyone else with internet access and an interest in these things (that could be you!). 

A quick look – and maybe even a quick download and filter application – of the City Transportation Action Updates spreadsheet, tells a story of the variety of actions being taken globally by mobility operators. From free public transit for all to free taxi rides for health care workers to additional fees for ride hailing, no one knows for certain what the best way to move forward is, but organizations are doing what they think is best and learning from others along the way. 

Let’s take a look at bike share specifically. 

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From The Atlantic, via PT correspondent Michael Alexander, one of two dozen artful (and depressing) images of the aftermath of China’s bike share boom.

The fallout of a burst bike-share bubble in China has left the country with millions of abandoned bicycles piled into “graveyards”—such as this one, photographed on April 14 in Nanning—that cities are still sorting through.

…In a few cases, plans have been announced to refurbish and distribute some of the bikes to smaller neighbouring towns; in others, wholesale recycling has begun, and bicycles are being crushed into cubes.

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Karole Sutherland writes from Spain:
 
SALAMANCA
We are visiting Salamanca, Spain and I couldn’t help admiring the clear demarcation of the bike and walking paths here. So much better than Vancouver’s oh-so-subtle signage mounted about 4 meters high on sign posts or via the occasional glyph on the pathway.

 
We live in Coal Harbour and watch the chaos as tourists take the wrong turn along the seawall – either as cyclists on the walking path or stroll down the bike path. It’s mayhem and for the most part, it’s because it’s not easy to figure out where you are supposed to be unless you live in Vancouver and know the secret handshake.
I don’t know the population of Salamanca but it’s nowhere close to Vancouver.  So why can’t we do something smart like this and make it clear for everyone?
 

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Tony Valente ends the bike-share tour of Spain in Valencia:
 

 
VALENCIA
JCDecaux manages Valencia’s bike-share system – Valenbisi. Bike-share stations were well located close to transit and in principle plazas, but technology was an issue as it was a struggle to gain access to the system. Repeated attempts to create a profile and withdraw a bike were denied in multiple stations.  Eventually I gave up.
Valencia’s cost structure makes it a bit of hybrid since short-term memberships are available, but cost 13 Euro for seven days access which provide up to 30 minutes free rides, with a one Euro charge for the next 30 minutes, followed by three Euros for the following 60-minute blocks. In comparison, renting a bike was nine Euros per hour, so there was some potential for savings if you could get access to the system. I could not …
It was unfortunate because Valencia had by far the best network of separated bike lanes widely dispersed throughout the city. The lanes also connect to a park created in the 1950s when Valencia decided to divert the Rio Turia after a disastrous flood. In its place they created kilometres of recreation space that includes bike lanes and running trails, now called Jardin del Turia.
This corridor forms a spine for bike travel connecting central Valencia to the Mediterranean. Ramps link the former river bed with city streets with separated bike lanes sometimes at street level, but otherwise on the sidewalk.
We cycled all over Valencia in these lanes and loved it. In Valencia we felt very safe riding on well planned infrastructure.
 

Keep the speed down and he will smile for you too.

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Tony Valente reports this week on bike-sharing in Spain.
 
SALAMANCA
Off to Salamanca, home of one of Europe’s oldest universities and featuring several UNESCO world heritages sites.

In Salamanca it became clear to that bike-share systems make a conscious choice to not compete with bike rentals since Salamanca’s system – Salenbici – does not offer short-term rentals.  A not-so-prohibitive annual fee of 26 Euro means you probably need to be in town for at least a few days to recoup the membership fee. In contrast, renting a bike at a local shop cost only five Euros per hour and got successively cheaper per hour the more time you wanted the bike.
Salamanca’s system was relatively low tech. That is to say you could not just walk up to a street terminal and use your credit card, but needed to go to an authorized location with fixed office hours where you could complete the registration. Between that complexity and the annual only fee,  a conscious decision was made not to ride Salamanca’s bike-share.
Where is the silver lining? Well, Salamanca as a smaller, more provincial town benefits greatly from less traffic, making riding in general more enjoyable as well as a great network of separated bike lanes. This was a place where you wanted to ride and were able to do so looking at amazing views of the city while crossing 2000-year-old Roman bridges that add something ancient to cycling infrastructure.

 

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Occasional PT correspondent Tony Valente was in Spain a few months ago and sends in this report on bike-sharing in four cities – one a day this week, beginning with Madrid.
 
MADRID
While not quite as mountainous like Vancouver, Madrid has a few hills. That is likely why all bikes in the bike-share feature electric assist – and it quite simply made using the bikes very enjoyable! So much so its easy to go mad about BiciMAD … the Madrid bike-share’s catchy name.

The system is managed by BonoPark. It can get pretty toasty in Madrid temperature wise and the electric assist can help minimize sweating while enjoying the city’s sights. This bike share is a real alternative to bus or metro transportation because it allows both citizens and visitors to the city to rent at a relatively cheap daily rate.
The point-to-point usage of the bike-share made getting around very easy. There were many stations around town conveniently located in major plazas and close to transit and metro stations.  On the downside, it should be acknowledged  that the bikes were not all equal. On one occasion while pedaling up a steep calle, the electric-assist started kicking in and out. It was a bit disappointing and it ended up with one sweaty user by the top of the hill. It will be difficult to forget how heavy an ebike and its battery can be unassisted.
Docking stations were also a bit finicky when returning and withdrawing bikes. MOBI’s bike-mounted release mechanism appears to be a lot simpler in comparison.  For seniors and those who struggle to lift a heavy steel bike, the system for connecting bikes required a lot of muscle.
Signage for tourists is not great when interfacing with the bike-share system. Following the English instructions on screen was further complicated because the terminal seemed to have a preference for some credit cards over others.
The major drawback of the Madrid bike-share, however, is not its bikes but the lack of infrastructure. There are few separated bike lanes. Madrid is a chaotic capital city and interestingly an approach has been taken to have bike riders ride not in the lane closest to the sidewalk, which is reserved for buses, but in the lane reserved for mopeds and motorcycles.
Even experienced rider will struggle with this. In theory this lane is limited to 30km/hour, but in reality mopeds and motorcycles whiz around you at speeds closer to 90km/hour. Children or the elderly should not be forced in to this lane.

Don’t be fooled by this tranquil-seeming scene from Google Maps…mopeds and motorcycles are there to nip at your tail

Tomorrow: Salamanca

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Located on Cambie between 8th and 7th, in front of Home Depot (one of six panels shown).
Odd, and delightful, how very quickly Mobi is becoming just another part of the CityScape. This Mobi’s rider used the built-in cable lock to secure the bike while (probably) shopping at next-door Save-On Foods.
 

To quote the attribution plaque“Imagery for this work was derived from the topography of the coastline of British Columbia.  GPS mapping software was used to acquire the original topographical information, which was refined through additional hand and computer drawing.  The steel was subsequently cut using computer guided high definition plasma cutting technology and then fabricated by hand.”
Commissioned by Grosvenor Canada Ltd.   (Six sculptural grates for fresh air intake vents for underground parking)
 

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