As some of you may have heard, bike share is coming to Rochester. I’ve considered writing about it all sorts of ways. I thought about mentioning how many other cities have it. Or how safe it is. Or even the specific plans for Rochester (warning: PDF). As you may have already guessed, I’m not about to do any of that. Instead, I’d like to discuss what bike share has meant for me over the past decade, and what it might mean for you too.
In summer of 2008, the first bike share program in the US opened in Washington DC. It was called SmartBike. It had 120 bikes or so. I remember it vividly as a station opened on Dupont Circle a block away from my uncle’s apartment. I also thought it was the dumbest thing ever. Who would ride someone else’s bike? Where would you ride it to? Why wouldn’t you want your own bike? I must confess, I never once used SmartBike. Not even when I lived in DC for 6 months the following year without a car. I could walk/take metro wherever I needed to go. I knew about bike sharing, and everything about it seemed wrong.
Let’s skip ahead to 2010. My wife and I had gotten married in the fall, and we promptly spent 2 weeks in Canada for our honeymoon (who does that!?). There I was dragged headfirst into the Bixi system in Montreal. As I mentioned, I hadn’t used bike share before, but my wife insisted. It was great. We could get anywhere in town quickly and easily. Our AirBnB was not right downtown, and bike share put it within reach. We didn’t have to worry about what to do with bikes that we rented long term. We didn’t have to worry about our bikes getting stolen. We didn’t need to box our bikes to drag them on Amtrak to Montreal in the first place. It was delightful. I wanted more.
Fast forward 3 years to 2013. Citi Bike was coming to New York City. I was excited just based on my experience in Canada, but I was unprepared for how it would revolutionize my life. The nearest Wells Fargo to my office was 8 blocks away. It used to take me my entire lunch to deposit a check. Once bike share opened, I could run the errand in 10 minutes. Our print shop was about a mile away. I used to lose more than half an hour a day schlepping back and forth to it. No more. Bike share cut it to 10 minutes flat, and I could carry more stuff to boot. Dinner date away from the subway on the east side? Faster and easier. Pick up groceries on the way home? Could be done at almost any store. It was amazing.
It’s so good, I cannot imagine moving to a city without it (and am glad Rochester is not calling my bluff on this). Both Boulder and Denver out here in Colorado have bike share, and they are infinitely useful. In fact, as the transportation network out here grows, they become more useful still. Since moving here express bus service has been added along the highway and trains have opened (and might be closing, whoops). All of this has simplified getting downtown on foot. And once you’re there, bike share can get you nearly anywhere else.
So let’s pivot to Rochester. What does all this mean? Well, imagine you work in High Falls. Right now Google says it would take you 1:10 to walk all the way to Wegmans. Sure that might be a nice leisurely stroll after work and if you live across the street on East Ave even useful. But what if you need 3 dozen bagels for the office? Well by bike, Google says it is 42 minutes round trip. You can grab them on your lunch hour and still have time to eat a few.
Now let’s imagine you work at the city court house and are ready to slap a judge if you can’t get a beef on weck sandwich for lunch. Well I hope you have more than a half hour, because it’s a 48 minute walk round trip to McCann’s. But wait! It’s a mere 16 minutes round trip with bike share. Disaster averted!
Ok, so food and groceries are nice and all, but tell me more. Well what if you’re a David Bowie aficionado and Modern Love isn’t getting you to the church on time? Bike share. Or you overslept on Saturday but still need more incense from the Public Market. Bike share. Need to sneak a workout in at the YMCA over lunch. Bike share! For nearly anything downtown bike share is faster than either walking or getting to your car (if you’re lucky enough to have one) driving to your destination and parking again. Look, bike share slices, dices, even juliennes. There’s almost no way for me to convey how fantastic it is until you try it yourself (please do – you won’t go back).
So here’s the part of this article that involves the ‘hard sell.’ Bike share, as awesome as it is, doesn’t just start itself. Each station costs about $9,000 to build and operate for the first 2 years (it’s cheaper after that – see amortization). This isn’t a very big ask for in front of Wegmans, or WXXI, or even South Ave. Where it is a big ask are some of the places that could use bike share most, like near the public market. But Reconnect Rochester is on it, and they could use your help. By giving to their crowdfunding campaign you are increasing the utility of your bike share subscription (trust me, you will subscribe), you’re helping your fellow Rochesterians, and you’re laying the groundwork for future expansions to the system that will make it even more useful still. As a little bonus for giving $20 or more, you’ll also receive this spectacular sticker that you can use to show off your bike share street cred.
I cannot tell you how excited I am for my favorite city on earth to be getting even better still. And thank you for helping!
Tags: Bike share, biking, cycling, High Falls, Matt Denker, Matthew Denker, McCanns, Wegman's, Zagster
This entry was posted on Monday, January 9th, 2017 at 10:44 am and is filed under Rochester News, Transit + Infrastructure, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.