Pic of the Week

Recently installed bikeshare station at GoRaleigh Station. November 2018.

The first Raleigh bikeshare system, Citrix Cycle, is rolling out with stations being installed in multiple locations. Above, the station for GoRaleigh Station across from Moore Square is in place, minus the bicycles of course. The last update I heard is that the system should be available for use before the end of the year.

See more about the system including the full map of stations over at Citrix Cycle.

Latest Update on Raleigh Bikeshare Plans for May 2018 Launch

If you can’t see the embedded video, click here. I’m catching up on my city council updates.

During the November 21, 2017 meeting, the city’s Transportation Planning Manager, Eric Lamb, gave us an update on the planned Raleigh Bikeshare and asked the council to approve moving forward with signing a contract with the preferred vendor, Bewegen.

They want to launch the new bike system in May 2018. (which is also bike month)

It looks like a station or two have changed since the last draft including a new station at the Farmer’s Market.

There are still 300 bikes with 30 stations planned. 150 of those bikes will be electric-assist bicycles.

The planned fares are as follows:

  • Annual Membership: $80
  • Annual Student Membership: $50
  • Monthly: $30
  • Monthly (low income): $5
  • Daily: $8
  • Single Trip: $3

All means of making the system equitable have been taken. For example, it will be possible to use cash and the electric-assist bikes should make it easier for those with less physical abilities.

I like the feature where virtual stations can be created where the bike’s GPS is utilized so users can drop off and check out bikes say at the Fairgrounds.

With that, the council approved the motion and things will be moving forward with the system.

Limebike Bikeshare Spotted Around Downtown Raleigh

Limebike bicycles in Moore Square

With so much attention going to the city’s bikeshare system, planned to launch in Spring 2018, this was somewhat of a surprise for me. NC State helped launch a private installation of Limebike a few weeks ago and recently, the citrus-colored bicycles have been spotted around downtown Raleigh.

I couldn’t help myself, I just had to try it. There was no signup fee and a 30 minute ride was only $1. (after my first free ride of course)

This system does not use any docks and relies heavily on the use of a smartphone app to help you get to a nearby bicycle. When I went out to use one, I couldn’t find the first but found a pair two blocks away. With a quick barcode scan, the bike was unlocked and ready for use.

Screenshot of the Limebike app.

In theory, I could park it anywhere, allowing others to just grab it for their own ride. The site encourages you to park it where there is existing bicycle parking so after showing it off at home, I rode it back to the nearest park to leave it.

The experience was quite delightful, even with a cheery jingle when the bike is locked and unlocked.

There is cause for debate here. With these bikes around Raleigh and a second system coming next year, I believe this changes the dynamic for bikeshare.

In my book, this is not the most ideal system, fragmenting the user base and causing a poorer user experience. Limebike’s reach won’t be as wide as the city’s system so there is overlap as well as individual coverage areas. To get the most, you need two apps, two sets of rules, etc.

That may seem simple to transit fans but we’re trying to get adoption by as many people as possible. It’s hurting the mission.

At the same time though, we may be in an experimental phase where the two systems can duke it out for user preference.

Either way, riding bikeshare in Raleigh has me excited and I hope for a far-reaching system with a plethora of options one day in the future. It’ll be fun to watch.

City Releases First Map of Proposed Bikeshare Stations

Subset of map of proposed bike share stations

The city has posted their first map of proposed stations for the upcoming Raleigh Bikeshare system. Jump over to bikeraleigh.org to see the whole thing.

The system plans for 30 stations and 300 bikes. Planners want the system running by Spring 2018. This map is the first draft of proposed stations and further work is needed to finalize them.

The system has stations as far out as the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Walnut Creek Wetland Center, and St. Augustine’s University. Dix, Chavis, and Pullen Parks get stations with the majority being in and around downtown and NC State.

Basically each district in downtown has one or two stations as well as the nearby neighborhoods like Oakwood, Person Street, Seaboard, and South Street.

I imagine that with planning a bikeshare system, and only having 30 stations, hard choices need to be made. You can’t spread them out too much, making the system less useful. At the same time, they can’t be too close together which makes the system lack coverage.

I want to guess that spots like Fred Fletcher, Five Points, and Centennial Campus were on the fence as these locations are outliers on a map with little to no bike paths or greenways in their direction.

Next up comes finalizing the station location and announcing rates. Also, I’m hoping there are plenty of e-bikes in the system cause if I didn’t have to actually pedal, you know, that would be great!

Municipography, Food Trucks and Raleigh Bikeshare

title

Municipography is a summary of current issues going through the Raleigh City Council and other municipal departments in the city. The point is to try to deliver any video, photos, and text associated with the discussions happening at City Hall or elsewhere. Since this is a downtown Raleigh blog, the focus is on the center of the city.

No embedded videos this week as for some reason, the city’s streaming video service is auto-playing the videos. I’m not into that.

Two long-talked topics were approved at this week’s city council meeting. The food truck debate has been a long one and a new pilot program will be rolled out to see how they operate on public property in and near downtown. Also, Raleigh will get its first bike share system in the coming years.

Food trucks

To watch/hear the discussion, click here.

The latest in the food truck saga is over the mobile food businesses operating in the public right-of-way. The plan is to designate five “zones” where the trucks can operate during the lunchtime hours. (10am-3pm) First Fridays will extend those hours to 8pm.

The five locations include:

  • The Warehouse District
  • Polk Street near the State Government Center
  • South State Street near the NC DMV
  • Bloodworth Street between Martin and Davie
  • The northern end of Moore Square

At this time, the Moore Square zone was dropped due to all the construction from the GoRaleigh Transit Station and Moore Square renovation.

The plan with the four zones passed unanimously and the new food truck pilot could be in place in 2-3 months.

Raleigh Bike share
To watch the video, click here and jump to around the 48th minute.

We talked about bike share in Raleigh recently and after a work session earlier in the day, the council decided to vote on it.

The plan was approved after a few brief comments. While councilors recognized that the city has needs outside of funding a bike share, the opportunity to have 80% of the installation costs covered by a federal grant was one they felt had to be taken. There was also lots of interest from the private sector to sponsor the system and the bike community was very vocal about their support.

“It’s up to you guys to use the system,” said Councilor Thompson. After three year, the system will be evaluated. It will most likely take two years to finalize the details and roll out the bike share system.

Council Discusses Bikeshare in Raleigh

Denver Bike Share Station by David McSpadden

During last week’s city council meeting, discussions about a possible bike share system in Raleigh took place. A presentation by Eric Lamb, the Transportation Planning Manager, took the council through a brief recap of what has been done so far, for the benefit of the newer council members, and where we stand today. The presentation and council discussion can be seen in the video below.


If the embedded video does not load for you, see it here.

No decision was made and the converation will continue at a March 15 work session.

The scenario we’re in includes an April 1, 2016 deadline to accept a federal grant. The council just needs to endorse accepting it as the grant is approved and ready to go. The grant would cover $1.6 million of the $2 million total cost to launch the proposed bike share system.

Covering the rest of the cost as well as annual maintenance could be covered by interested sponsors but that isn’t set in stone. This is where the council, with the exception of a minority of members, have expressed concern.

Councilors Thompson, Crowder, and Cox seem to be most concerned about operating costs and that accepting this grant puts the city on the hook for propping up the bike share system.

Crowder states “I don’t want the city to be in the bike business.” She used Seattle as an example where the local bike share system is asking for the City of Seattle to bail them out.

Councilor Gaylord stated that there was local interest to help sponsor the system. He’s worked to get this lined up and the totals from the private sector could be around $250,000 annually. The only companies that have publicly come out to support the bike share system were Citrix and Rex Healthcare.

The proposed system does not have station locations set yet but would include 30 stations between the neighborhoods around Downtown, NC State, and the NC Museum of Art. The recommended plan was done in 2014, before the Dix Park deal so reevaluating a few stations may take place.

For me, I’m torn with my support with bike share.

On one hand, I want Raleigh to roll out this 30 station system, no less. With 80% of the launch cost covered by a federal grant and a good portion of the operating cost covered by private companies, I feel it is worth investing in and seeing if it sticks.

There’s so much talk of transit going on right now and I disagree with Councilor Crowder’s statement. The city IS in the bike business only it’s called something different.

The city is in the mobility business. The city does have an interest in allowing people to move around our city in the healthiest, safest, easiest way possible. A bike share system today could expand in the future creating more trips that support sustainable neighborhoods and communities.

Then, the other side of me kicks in.

We do have quite a bit of projects going on. I want to see the city get Dix Park right. I want to see them get this Transit Referendum passed this year. I want to see Union Station become a great success. I want to see the expansion of the bicycle network. Aren’t these projects predecessors for a bike share system?

A part of me wants to see transit, the network, and downtown become a little more mature before we try this bike share.

In the end though, perhaps juggling even more projects at the same time is how a bigger city operates. The city did in fact pay a consultant that told us a bike share system in Raleigh is feasible. Plus, it is a recommended action item in the 2030 Comprehensive Plan.

I’d like to see us take that risk. If it doesn’t work, lesson learned and move on.

Sharing Bikes, It’s What Raleighites Do

San Antonio B Cycle Station

San Antonio B Cycle Station

Or will do anyway according to a recent report. I just went through most of the recently released 2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study. The conclusion of the study finds that a bike share system in Raleigh is feasible. You can get the study here (pdf) or see it and a lot of other Bike Raleigh information at BikeRaleigh.org.

I decided to go through the study and take some notes.

Executive Summary
If anything, the Executive Summary is worth reading through. At a high level, the study identifies the following benefits of a bike share system for Raleigh:

  • “Augmenting the City’s existing transportation options while encouraging active transportation by lowering barriers to entry for minority and low income residents.”
  • “Providing an impetus for further investment in bicycle-friendly facilities.”
  • “Building on the City’s reputation as a forward-thinking, bicycle-friendly community.”
  • “Using bike share to promote the City to potential employers, residents, and visitors.”

These findings were based on certain qualities that our city has. This includes a comparatively “high resident density” and “high concentration of employers” near downtown, a “significant tourist market,” and “plans and policies in place focusing on the promotion of livable, walkable, and bicycle friendly places.”

A bike share system in Raleigh is not without its challenges however. Two major obstacles identified are:

  1. “A high dependency on single-occupancy vehicles (SOV’s)”
  2. “an emerging but not yet complete network of bicycle-friendly facilities”

Also mentioned as obstacles are a “difficult topography” and “existing development patterns” that promote low population and employment densities outside of downtown.

The first round of cost estimates are mentioned as well. From the report, here’s a table showing approximate startup and operating costs based on national averages.

2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study - Projected Implementation Costs

Diving Into The Study
The study is divided into nine sections that start by introducing bike share, what it is and how it has been implemented in other cities, all the way to demand analysis in Raleigh and a final recommendation.

If you are asking yourself, “What is Bike Share?” then I recommend reading pages 4-11 for some background history and fun facts about the service. For example, did you know:

A bike share system can help a community attract and retain residents. Many communities have used bike share systems as an added effort to help (re)vitalize and reactivate their downtown area(s). In addition, it provides a new and different way for tourists to see a city, helping attract more tourists and their spending power to communities.

*2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study – Community Economic Benefits page 8

I won’t go over the basics and benefits of a bike share system in this post. Instead, I’ll recommend checking out the study or reading a June 2013 blog post about my visit to San Antonio and using their bike share system.

Community Analysis
The study starts by taking a look at Raleigh and some of the community features like demographics, physical makeup, and current infrastructure.

Our temperate weather is always listed as a plus. Another plus are some generally flat areas around the core downtown. That’s not to say there aren’t some hills out there. I know Glenwood South is on quite a slant when cycling up and down it.

Our population:

The City of Raleigh is the second most populous city in the state with approximately 423,000 people living in the city – a density of around 2,800 people per square mile, which is higher than all of the other southeastern bike share cities.

*2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study – Demographics page 26

That’s a pretty powerful statistic right there. Here is the comparison between us and other southeastern bike share cities.
2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study - Size, Population, and Density Comparison

The study shows that the population and employment density is most clustered in and around downtown. There are a few pockets of higher density residential in southwest and north Raleigh but downtown really commands the most attention. See the figure below for a heat map of population density in Raleigh.

2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study - Population Density
Click for larger

Analysis was also done on low-income and minority communities. There is a significant overlap between feasible areas for bike share and locations of these communities. This presents an opportunity to provide a low-cost transit option to these residents.

Compliment to Transit?
Here’s probably the biggest challenge and detractor to the feasibility of a bike share system in Raleigh.

Raleigh is still a predominately auto-oriented city – single occupancy vehicle use represents 79-percent of all commuting trips (See Figure 21).98 Parking costs have traditionally also encouraged vehicle travel, even for short trips.

*2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study – Transportation Mode Share page 32

2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study - Transportation Mode Share

The quote says 79% while the pie chart shows 84%. Unless I’m missing something that might be a typo in the study. Either way, both numbers are pretty high and significantly show Raleigh’s dependency on SOVs.

The only area in the city with a significant amount of proximity to transit, mass transit specifically like Capital Area Transit (CAT), is in downtown. The study points this out as a challenge but lists an opportunity to use bike share to bridge gaps between activity centers that are poorly served by buses.

I think this is the biggest challenge by far for a successful implementation of bike share in Raleigh.

In addition to bus transit, our current bicycle facilities are mentioned. The study recognizes the increase in facilities over the last four years and the city’s commitment to be a “bicycle friendly community.”

However, if you look at the overlap between the areas where bike share is feasible, mainly downtown, and the fact that bike facilities are spread across the city, this leaves much fewer miles to be used within a possible system.

Here’s a point for more discussion. Most bike facilities are actually outside of downtown so to say that bike share can only happen near bike facilities doesn’t quite tell the whole story in my opinion. Downtown streets are naturally friendlier to bicycles so therefore are more fit for bike share. The study points out that there are much less bicycle facilities in downtown as a detriment to a bike share system and I think that could be argued against.

Policy
I’m not going to get into the details of this section but wanted to mention it as I thought it interesting. An identified challenge was that “The permitting process may be complicated due to restrictions on outdoor advertising, historic district designation, right-of-way ownership by multiple government agencies, and specific streetscape plans.”

Complicated indeed. An included flow-chart shows some situations having to go through seven layers of permitting.

Public Engagement
The feasibility study was not without its opportunity for you and I to participate. “Public feedback was gathered using a number of tools including a community workshop, a project website, an online survey, a crowdsourcing map, and interviews with local stakeholders and agencies.”

Surveys showed that 84% of respondents support a bike share program in Raleigh. Opinions, both supportive and of concern, were around the themes of:

  • “Promoting bicycling as a viable transportation option in Raleigh.”
  • “Helping to reduce traffic congestion.”
  • “Helping to make Raleigh an “attractive” city for new residents.”
  • “Concern for the cost of the system.”
  • “Needing a more extensive bicycle network prior to implementation.”

To gather more information, an online crowdsourcing map was built so that people could suggest station locations and provide comments. Here’s a map of the 151 stations that were received including a table of the top 10.

2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study - Publicly Suggested Station Locations
Click for larger

Big Picture Conclusion
The study goes on to explain its methodology behind the recommendations and results as well differences between the types of bike share systems that are out there. Below is a potential bike share heat map as well as a list with final conclusions and recommendations.

2014 Raleigh Bike Share Feasibility Study - Potential Bikeshare Demand Heat map
Click for larger

  • Geography, Climate and Land Use – “Challenges do not outweigh the opportunities.”
  • Demographics and Employment – “Although there are large areas of the City with low population and employment densities, the constant influx of large employers and residents to downtown provide a strong opportunity for successful implementation of a bike share program in the area.”
  • Transportation Mode Share – “Coordination of deployment of stations with existing and planned public transportation services will be important to help extend the reach of service and connectivity to and from activity centers.”
  • Bicycle Infrastructure – “City should continue to develop its planned network of bicycle facilities and a complete way-finding program in parallel with a potential implementation of a bike share program.”
  • Tourism – “City should consider allocating some funding for specialized outreach for tourist oriented promotion of the bike share program.”
  • Local and Regional Plans and Policies – “It is recommended that the City review and consider amending local regulations related to signage to allow for the placement of sponsorship and/or advertising on bike share stations to potentially help cover costs for program.”
  • Public Input and Stakeholder Engagement – “There is general support for implementing a bike share program in the City of Raleigh. Station based system is preferred.”

Field Research, Riding Around on the San Antonio B-cycle

San Antonio B Cycle Hub

Last week, I was in San Antonio for a few days and had an opportunity to check out the city for the first time. As well as seeing the town, strolling on the much talked about Riverwalk, and eating breakfast tacos I made a point to try out B-cycle, the bike share service with programs in multiple cities around the country. With over 40 stations in and out of downtown, I was determined to plan some sightseeing while on two wheels.

For some background, I recommend you watch the Raleigh Urban Design Center’s education forum about bike share in other cities which includes the B-cycle service.

I was staying near the convention center and did not rent a car for my trip. Using cabs to get everywhere would have cost me much more than I was willing to spend. Plus, the bus and trolley network had pretty good coverage and frequency to get around. Renting a bike however seemed like a great way to move at my own pace and stop when I wanted too.

San Antonio had temperatures in the mid-90s on the particular weekday that I tried out B-cycle and very little cloud cover. Still determined to try it, I got started in the morning and avoided the much hotter afternoon.

Getting Started

I walked from my hotel to the B-cycle hub located at the corner of Alamo Street and Cesar Chavez Boulevard. This little building seemed like the heart of the bike share program and anyone could go there for information, bike gear rental and sales, etc. Unfortunately, I arrived before they opened (9am-5pm on weekdays) and couldn’t go inside.

I needed to open an account with B-cycle before getting a bike so I sat outside and filled out the form on my smartphone. It wasn’t mobile friendly but a customer service rep that I later emailed with said they are working on that.

Here were my membership options:

  • 24-hour – $10
  • 7-days – $24
  • Annual – $60

One day seemed perfect for my situation so I selected the $10 option and gave up the credit card info. I learned that the account is activated, and the clock starts, when the first bike is rented, not when you sign up. This is good to know so that you can get this part of the process out of the way ahead of time.

Renting a bike

Now that my account was set up, renting a bicycle was easy. Each station has a solar-powered touchscreen that guides you through the process. It’s about five taps and a credit card swipe from start to finish. You then pull your selected bike out of the station and you’re good to go.

The bike is a 3-speed cruiser with a basket on the front. There is also a bike lock provided and the seat adjusts pretty easily.

I next started my ride into San Antonio’s King William neighborhood followed by the Mission trail to my final destination, Mission San Jose. The ride was about 6 miles on street and a greenway along the San Antonio river. The map below shows my approximate ride.


View Leo’s San Antonion B-cycle ride in a larger map

B-Cycling Away

At this point, if you have ridden a bicycle before, it was pretty much the same thing.

Along my ride, I spotted many of the other B-cycle stations. The route I chose was mainly on side streets and mostly had bike lanes so riding was easy. San Antonio is also pretty flat so I wasn’t struggling up any hills which I sometimes encounter here in Raleigh.

(For the record, I’m in decent bike shape but not an all-star by any means)

I felt that the cycling experience was now in the hands of the city. The route I chose went through a few parks and I stopped twice to get water from public water fountains. The presence of bike lanes was very welcomed and I felt comfortable on the streets. This could have been different on someone else’s route however.

Returning the bike

I finally made it to Mission San Jose and the visitor center had a station right in front. Returning the bike is dead simple. You find an empty slot and glide the bike right into it. The station beeps and turns green when the bike has been set in properly.

That’s it.

One thing I had to look up out of curiosity would be what to do if the station was full and there were no empty slots to return the bike. B-cycle’s official answer to this is:

If you have a bike checked out and wish to return it, but there are no available docks at a station, you can use a web browser (www.sanantonio.bcycle.com) or iPhone app to locate available bikes at nearby stations. Also, if you approach the kiosk at a full station, the kiosk will provide information about nearby stations with available docks, and you can also get 15 free minutes added to your ride so you can take the bike to an open station without incurring additional usage fees.

There is a system map located at each station.

They don’t mention it in this FAQ excerpt but there is an Android app as well which is what I used to find nearby stations.

Final Thoughts

As mentioned earlier, I encourage everyone to jump to the Urban Design Center video about bike share in other cities with some nice discussion following it.

Before this trip, I was on the fence about bike share in Raleigh. I felt that we should continue spending more time and money on bicycle infrastructure with bike share coming later. I am a little more convinced about it though after trying it but still feel that Raleigh needs to plan, retrofit, and build more bicycle friendly streets before stations are put in.

First, it would be advantageous to plan for bike share now. We could identify possible station and hub locations, create design guidelines for sidewalks and streets around them, get neighborhoods thinking about where stations could be placed along their streets, those kinds of things. With these in place, when we’re ready for bike share, we’ll be prepared.

With this kind of preparation done, I also feel that a sizable network should be rolled out instead of a small system just to ‘test the waters.’ The success of the bike share system, in my opinion, is based on how comfortable riders feel their options are in station locations. If the city decides to implement bike share with only 5-10 stations then adoption will be much slower and it hurts any case for expansion.

Seeing several B-cycle stations around San Antonio was comforting and gave me confidence in the system. The same should go for any city that wants to do the same.

San Antonio B Cycle Station

One thing that doesn’t quite make sense to me is the placement of these bike share stations. All of the stations that I’ve seen, across multiple cities, have been on the sidewalk. I feel they should be right on the street, similar to how a bike corral is placed on the street.

Just like the Hargett Street bike corral occupies some space on the street (not the sidewalk) a bike share station should occupy space along a street. Bicycles, after all, are treated like vehicles on the road and should therefore park like them as well.

On a later ride on B-cycle, I was riding down Market Street, looking for the station in front of the convention center. I didn’t see the station because it was partially hidden behind parked cars along the street. Better signage (just like cars get with larger street signs, parking signs, etc.) should be placed for bicycle riders who need to know that a B-cycle station is coming up and whether it is on the approaching left or the right.

Bringing it to Raleigh

I haven’t looked at them all but a few bike share systems that I have seen have been backed by private funds. This helps implementation happen much faster so until a private company around Raleigh is willing to put up funds for this, we’ll have to wait until it’s a sound public investment.

While other programs exist, B-cycle has a ‘Who wants it more?’ page where you can vote to bring B-cycle here. Right now, we’re ranked #67 with 489 votes. Vote here.

Don’t put too much stock into that though as Charlotte, who has a B-cycle system, ranks #67 (464 votes) while Asheville ranks #7 (31,344 votes) and does not.

Just keep pedaling, Raleigh.