A million-dollar idea for whoever the tech-smartest of my six readers is — a CAPTCHA-like gizmo that bars owners of bicycle-oriented blogs from posting after a less-than-stellar workday and commute. Please pardon today’s extra dose of cynicism.
Out in Las Vegas (“it’s a dry heat, but dripping in irony”), the bicycle industry has gathered for their start-of-school-year Sorting Hat ceremony, Interbike. The smart and studious Ravenclaw bicycle store buyers and owners eye-f@#k the shoes of Shawn Johnson’s ex like satellite images of Saddam’s alleged nuclear missile tubes. Be sure to politely exchange business cards with the diligent and purposeful Hufflepuff import brokers cloistered in their own small corral with the vaguely-racist nickname. But beware the cunning Slytherin, those CAT4 bros on the shop team who tag along as “employees.”
From the start, however, we all know who the real heroes are in this fable. The US bicycle branding and marketing industry firmly inhabits the House of Gryffindor at the Hogwarts Conference Center and Casino. And the Harry-Potteriest of all is John Burke, head of Trek Bikes [I would love to somehow add a “Mike Sinyard = Ron Weasley” crack in here, but I am afraid that I would get sued]. Anyway, today, Twitter tells me that Mr. Burke gave the gathered masses a keynote address, where he said things like bicycling, “needs to get its act together like the NRA.” Um, OK… not sure that simile is gonna play well in Portlandia. But he also apparently unleashed this b-school textbook Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) – “Let’s get biking up to 5% of all trips by 2025.”
A seemingly feasible goal — about half of the current bike modeshare in Germany, for example…
Chart from “Walking and Biking in Western Europe” (pdf), Pucher and Buehler 2012
But here comes the extra serving of cynicism I promised. I went on at some length yesterday about why Capital Bikeshare needs to start convincing some bikeshare users to become bike owners. Because as awesome as CaBi is, and all its great attributes, I believe that it has given the Washington DC area a decent bump in bike modeshare, but not the revolutionary multiple necessary to, say, approach the “Burke BHAG.”
Just one cynical idiot’s jaded opinion, but the estimated 11% of local rides taken by bikeshare seem to be blotting out the sun in the local bike world these days. While CaBi grows up and out and finishes triathlons, the creation of new enticing places for all riders to ride are mired in unexplained delay, stepwise delay, and carefully-studied mediocrity.
Becoming a world-class bicycle transportation city will take more than boundless expansion of bikeshare. How about we grab hold of the Burke BHAG of 5% modeshare to illustrate the point, and use the same assumptions I used to estimate that CaBi accounts for 11% of current bike trips:
- About 215,000 people live in Arlington County, VA, 615,000 live in Washington, DC. We’ll assume this doesn’t change in the next 12 years.
- According to the MWCOG’s ’07-08 household travel survey, Arlingtonians took 0.8% of all their trips by bicycle, and District residents took 1.5% by bike.
- So the population-weighted average bike modeshare for all trips is 1.3%
- We’re going to ignore other cities and counties, just cuz.
- People averaged about 4 trips per person per day.
- We can estimate (people x trips x bike rates = total trips) that somewhere around 44,000 combined trips are taken by Arlington and District residents by bike every day.
- According to the latest CaBi Dashboard ridership data, CaBi averaged 4,715 rides per day over the past year.
So the “Burke BHAG” requires us to roughly
triple quadruple (math is hard!) the number of trips taken by bike in DC and Arlington in the next 12 years. And since each is a Silver level Bicycle Friendly Community, logic dictates that we would need to actually achieve far higher to get all trips across the country to 5%, since we have to make up for lovely places like Blackhawk, CO, and Grimes, IA. But for simplicity’s sake, we will ignore that, and just shoot for taking care of our own house.
Using all those assumptions above, we need to collectively take 166,000 trips by bicycle per day. If we ignore all logic, and plan for every single additional bicycle trip to be taken by Capital Bikeshare, we would need a system that:
- Supports 122,000 rides per day, or 26 times more than the past year.
- At its current (my very approximate guesstimate) rate of around 1.9 rides per dock per day, that is 64,211 dock spots that need to be added. CaBi currently has around 3,100.
- At the current contracted hardware prices, docks and bikes (just hardware) to meet this need would cost over $186M. Dollars. American. Or, about
one-thirdthree times (math is REALLY hard!) the estimated capital cost to replicate Portland’s entire bicycle network from scratch.
Don’t misunderstand me — Capital Bikeshare plays an important role in bicycling, by introducing new or lapsed riders to the bicycle as transportation, and bumping up the number of trips taken by existing bicyclists by providing convenience. We absolutely should continue growing the system, and there’s no reason why CaBi shouldn’t still account for 11ish% of the tripled bike modeshare in 2025. But that other 89% needs some very focused attention paid to the less sexy stuff – things like inviting the interested to buy the all-you-can-bike buffet, and providing low-stress places to ride, arranged in a useful network, with an eye firmly on mobility. Perhaps we need an Albus Dumbledore to get us pointed in the right direction.