The North American Bikeshare Association has just launched to help guide the new and fast-growing bikesharing industry.
The term “bikeshare” is quickly becoming a household term, with programs now in more than 300 cities worldwide. In the United States, bikeshare programs exist in more than 60 municipalities, from large cities such as New York to small communities such as Aspen, Colorado.
The idea is that NABSA will offer new bikeshare programs a template and existing programs a forum to bounce ideas around. A major milestone for NABSA is the first annual meeting, September 7 and 8 in Pittsburgh. The organization already has bylaws and non-profit status established and the first board will be elected at the September meeting.
I asked two out of the three founders of NABSA – Chris Eatough of BikeArlington and Capital Bikeshare (who will soon become Howard County, Maryland’s first bike and pedestrian coordinator) and Bill Dossett, executive director of Nice Ride Minnesota, about the association.
Chris Eatough: It will bring together bikeshare managers and vendors of bikeshare-related products from around North America. It’s a fast-growing industry and it really helps to be able to discuss best practices, work together on solutions, understand what options are available, and find solutions to emerging problems. We do this more effectively if we do it together.
MC: To go along with that question, why is it necessary to have a bikeshare association?
CE: Sometimes casual discussion is fine, but sometimes it’s important to be able to collect the viewpoints and ideas of many individuals and organizations related to bikeshare, come to consensus, and then represent that viewpoint with one common voice. For example, there is a strong consensus among bikeshare-system operators that bikeshare is a new form of transit, and it should be considered a transit mode with regard to public policy and funding. But it’s not there yet, so a strong collective voice is going to be helpful to make this happen.
Bill Dossett: In the urban-mobility field, rapid change has disrupted old business models and created new opportunities. New vendors and products arrive every day. In this environment, urban bikeshare has grown from an experiment to an industry in a few short years. To maximize the potential of bike sharing, we must make it even easier for people to use multiple transportation modes by coordinating user interfaces, integrating payment platforms, and keeping pace with new technologies. Working alone, these opportunities are too big for any city, non-profit, or vendor to tackle. Working collaboratively, the bikeshare industry can drive innovation and accelerate positive change.
MC: How do you interpret the large growth in the bikeshare industry?
CE: So many reasons!
Biking is a great way to get around, and it’s especially efficient in dense urban areas. Bikeshare provides a new twist to biking (compared to using your own bike) because it enables one-way trips. It keeps your options open. You can go from A to B by bikeshare, then go by B to C by bus, then from C back to A by carshare. Or any combination of these shared-use modes. Lots of people in urban areas move around this way. It’s not just A to B and then back again by the same mode every time. The bikes are always waiting for you to use them, but they are no burden when you are not using them.
City planners love it because it’s a relatively inexpensive way to provide mobility for people to get around. It is very space efficient and energy efficient. And you can get a system up and running very quickly. It generally takes about two years to plan, prepare, and launch a system, which is much shorter than new bus or rail transit. So systems are popping up across the country very quickly.
Bikeshare also adds to the vitality, quality of life and economic strength of a community. More and more cities are realizing this, and striving to be a place with lots of people biking and walking.
MC: What do you think NABSA means for the future of active transportation or multimodal transportation?
CE: I think NABSA is important to keep bikeshare moving in the right direction. It is providing the platform for the right people to come together, learn from each other’s experiences, share ideas and build on them, and help bikeshare systems optimize success.
BD: The urban-mobility field is exploding. Macro trends are driving a period of rapid change: 88 percent of Millennials want to live in urban areas, we have seen a historic reversal in vehicle miles traveled; employers are rewarding active lifestyles; and there is a growing acceptance of shared-use rather than ownership.
NABSA will help cities, non-profits, and vendors put high-quality bikesharing equipment on the street in urban areas throughout North America, capitalizing on these trends and building momentum for smart, healthy transportation alternatives.
MC: What do you think is the strongest argument to get people out of cars and using another modes of transportation to work such as biking?
BD: A person riding a bike to work and a person sitting in traffic in a car experience the same city two very different ways. The biker has much more fun.
MC: How do you think bikeshare programs strengthen a sense of community?
BD: A place where people bike is a vibrant place where people want to be. Bikesharing has brought millions of people together behind the simple idea that we can create better cities by making it easier for more people to ride bikes.
Photo by Elly Blue