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City governments struggle as bike sharing upsets traditional transportation models

Published April 19, 2018

MONTEREY, Calif. (BRAIN) — Bike sharing is expanding so rapidly that city governments are hard-pressed to develop appropriate rules for companies intent on developing new markets.

That was one message that a panel on redefining urban mobility delivered to attendees Wednesday at the Bicycle Leadership Conference.

Ryan Russo, director of Oakland, California's, department of transportation, said local governments are "caught in a tornado." And, he added, local government is struggling with how to manage bike share. "They are trying to figure out how to adapt," said Russo, who oversees more than 800 miles of city roads and 1,000 miles of sidewalks.

Bike sharing, however, is changing the "geometry" of transportation. Consider how much space a car takes up -- space for a buses and other transportation modes like taxis. Motor vehicles require a major investment upfront, said Oakland's Russo.

Think roads, repairs, cost of a car, maintenance and insurance. But once a consumer buys a car, for example, the money picture changes. "They may be cheap to drive, but the geometry no longer works in cities," he said.

Despite the challenges, Ryan Rzepecki, founder of JUMP Bikes, said that while dockless bike sharing is growing fast, "the goals for private companies and (their) technology are mostly aligned with cities in trying to get people out of cars."

Rzepecki, who founded JUMP in 2010, has some 15,000 bikes for rent in six countries. His fleet has logged more than 5 million trips globally. Uber recently acquired his company; JUMP is a significant player in the San Francisco market.

Andrew Salzberg, Uber's head of transportation policy and research, said Uber's decision to buy JUMP points to a natural alliance between Uber's ride share technology and bike share. "The app links riders so they can find transportation that is better, faster and cheaper and that gets them to the right place at the right time and works for the right person," Salzberg said.

"There are a lot of smart people at Uber and we're skeptical that one app for one city would work," he said. Uber, on the other hand, can offer one app for all cities where the company operates and that app could be used for bike sharing.

John MacArthur, manager of Portland State's sustainable transportation program, said focuses on barriers to bicycles in cities and e-bikes, like those JUMP rents in San Francisco, breaks a number of barriers to commuting.

A recent survey that MacArthur did with PeopleForBikes found that consumers who purchase e-bikes buy them to replace trips that had been taken by car. E-bikes also make it easier to commute. And, he added, users find that the bikes are fun.

 

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