Dispatch from an Early Bike Share Volunteer
The process for establishing a bike share system in New Orleans has begun
Last year, Bike Easy celebrated a long-awaited victory for mobility when the City of New Orleans signed a contract to establish a bike share system. Over Martin Luther King, Jr Day weekend, Bike Easy hosted the first two opportunities for people to get involved in the details of setting up a sustainable, equitable system for New Orleans! Bike Easy Advocacy Intern, Jack Greenwood, participated in Saturday’s event and provides the following dispatch:
One weekend ago, I joined 16 other people from the Greater New Orleans biking community. It was at this event that we learned about the upcoming bike share program, discussed its details, and went out and surveyed neighborhoods all over the city to find out where to best place bicycle stations. It was at this event that the people of New Orleans took an exciting step toward promoting greater mobility options.
After Bike Easy’s Dan Favre kicked off the event, we heard a brief presentation by Dwight Norton, Urban Mobility Coordinator for the City of New Orleans, and Kris and Alan, representatives of the bike share company Social Bicycles. Their slideshow painted an exciting picture. The initial launch in the fall of this year will place 700 bikes across 70 stations that service Downtown, Central City, and Mid-City. Users can pick up and park the bikes at official stations, approved bike racks, or, for a small extra fee, anywhere in the service area. The bikes themselves are sturdy cruisers built to withstand constant outdoor exposure, and they also feature some cool technology. For example, a built-in LCD screen will display the distance and duration of your ride, while a built-in communication system can help you contact a representative if your bike breaks down.
Particularly exciting was the pricing system: $8 per hour for one-time users, $15 for a month pass with a free hour per day (you can split up that hour over many short rides throughout the day), or – for low-income individuals – $20 for a year-long pass. We’re optimistic that this sliding scale will significantly expand mobility options for low-income New Orleanians often marginalized by existing transportation systems.
After reviewing the programs details, we learned more about the day’s task of site surveying. An ideal bike share station should be accessible by transit or foot, near places of interest, visible, in a spacious location, and work with pre-existing concrete. Easier said than done. And yet, our volunteers were more than happy to step up to the plan.
Our group enjoyed lunch following the information session. Shout-out to Liberty’s Kitchen for catering! Their orzo salad and po boys were seriously delicious. (Don’t take my word for it; stop by their cafe on the ground floor of the Whole Foods off Broad and Bienville if you ever want to find out for yourself.)
During our lunch break, we also got to test out the bikes in the rooftop parking lot. Sure enough, they offered a smooth ride for people of all sizes and abilities. And what a nice day to ride! 70 degrees with minimal cloud cover. It was with this endorsement from the weather gods that our group of 17 volunteers split off into groups and tackled the streets on our own bikes.
I selected to scope out the Lafitte Greenway and Jeff Davis Parkway Trail with my partner for the day, Michael. We used our smartphones to take pictures, write up descriptions, and share our potential bike station sites with the rest of our group. The process was surprisingly energizing, as it got me visualising the system on the ground. Maybe someday soon, families, children, senior citizens, young adults, and everybody else in between interested in biking would need only to walk to the trails and punch in a code. As simple as that.
If you’re interested in that vision, be sure to look out for upcoming Social Bicycles demos around the city during the lead up to Mardi Gras!