Bike Share for New Orleans

Posted by Dan Favre on June 21, 2016 in Advocacy

A new form of public transportation for New Orleans

After 5 years of advocating for a bike share program and, Bike Easy is happy and excited that the City of New Orleans formally initiated the process this spring that should have bike share on the streets by the end of 2017. Extensive public outreach and feasibility studies clearly show our city is ready!

A successful bike share will be a powerful addition to the public transportation system in New Orleans, and it will improve mobility for residents and visitors. Bike share systems are designed to allow people to affordably take short, one-way trips by bicycle. Adding 700 bike share bikes to the streets of New Orleans will also help more people experience the joys and benefits of bicycling!

Over 500 cities throughout the world, including some of the oldest, offer bike share as an affordable, accessible, equitable mode of transit. Basically, this is the way it works – there are kiosks placed throughout the city where you can check out a bike, ride it to your destination, and check it back in at another kiosk. Using the bikes, much like taking the bus, means paying a small fee. Many systems around the country have different passes – day passes, monthly passes, annual passes – and once you have a pass, you get unlimited, free 30-60 minute bike rides. If you go over the allotted time, you start to get charged more – it’s designed to encourage short, one-way trips for transportation.

The details for the New Orleans system are still being worked out, and there will be opportunities to give your input. Once an operator is selected, there will a community planning process to help determine optimum citing of kiosks and other important details for the bike share system.

A large number of partners, including Bike Easy, the City of New Orleans, Regional Planning Commission, New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and more, worked for many years to build knowledge of and support for a bike share system. After years of study and outreach, it is clear that New Orleans is ready for a bike share system.

The Request for Proposals released by the City on April 19, 2016 lays a very solid foundation for a bike share system that will improve mobility for all, increase social equity, and contribute to bicycle safety.

Of course, getting bike share right is complicated.

The City is now in the process of reviewing proposals from companies interested in operating bike share, and later this month, they should invite a specific operator to bring bike share to New Orleans.

Bike Easy is working to make sure the bike share system that is selected and established here effectively serves low-income communities, includes community education to improve bicycle safety, and contributes to better bicycle infrastructure.

Equity in a bike share system is crucial to reducing health disparities, providing job access and transportation options to those who lack it, and improving bicycle safety. Most of all, this means the system has to be affordable. Organizing fees like the bus system by offering discount monthly and annual passes and charging relatively more for day passes, the bike share can allow visitors to feel good about supporting public transportation while creating more transportation options for resident. Equity also means that the bike share system needs to be accessible – offering cash or other payment options for those who are unbanked without credit cards. It means kiosk citing designed for residents of low-income communities and that coordinates with bus services. It means focusing community bicycle education efforts and safety messaging through locally-rooted partner organizations that serve residents. Equity means bike share working with workforce development programs to hire a diverse staff. And while New Orleans is benefiting greatly from the lessons of the many cities who have already implemented bike share programs, we still have a lot to learn about how best to use bike share as a tool to help increase social equity.

Bike share can also be a key component in improved bicycle safety and awareness. The visibility of bike share, and the increase in number of people riding bikes, will help raise driver awareness of people on bikes. All the kiosks and bikes should be convey basic bicycle safety messages. The operator should provide free bike safety classes for those who want to learn to ride. Other partners should use bike share as an opportunity to share bicycle safety messaging.

Finally, bike share and improved bike infrastructure have grown up together in many cities, and we expect the same in New Orleans. New Orleans has already surpassed 100 miles of bike facilities (if you count the 40-ish miles of sharrow-marked streets), and we’re looking forward to the next 100 miles of even better bikeways. As bike share contributes to more people riding bikes, the demand for the best bikeways – protected lanes, neighborhood greenways, off-street paths – grows.

Establishing a public transportation of this size and scope is complicated and difficult, and there is still much work to be done to ensure it is a sustainable, equitable bike share system. Bike Easy is actively engaged in ensuring that is the case, and we will need your help. We know it will be worth the effort.

Bike Easy is excited to see a world-class bike share system come to New Orleans!


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