Showing posts with label bikeshare programs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bikeshare programs. Show all posts

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Dockless BikeShare Bike Hiding From Riders in Plain Sight

Little Lost Dockless Bike
Parked at this location on a busy street for a full week

This bike arrived at this location last Sunday morning. (The photo was taken from the local multi-use trail across the street from the bike that is heavily used by walkers and cyclists.) It is at South Wakefield St and South Walter Reed Drive in (South) Arlington, VA, at a bus stop. Biking by most direct route, it is less than ten miles from Capitol Hill, which is the middle (assuming you look at it that way) of Washington DC. Not the distant suburbs, but not a quick bicycle ride either.

For the "docked" Capital Bikeshare system, this area is at the edge of the present network of bikeshare docks. The nearest station is now about one-third of a mile away. There are about (per 3,700 Capital Bikeshare bikes available across the metro DC area with this network.

This orangy bike is part of Mobike's dockless bikeshare. In the DC area, Mobike has started with 400 of their "dockless" bikes. Mobike ("the world's largest smart bike sharing company" they say) has a press release with some details of their plans.
Mobike is a re-imagination and delivery of the ultimate urban bicycle with innovations such as the chainless shaft transmission, non-puncture airless tires, a lightweight aluminum anti-rust frame, an enhanced and durable disk-brakes and an auto-inspired five-spoke wheel. These functional design elements result in a maintenance-free bike, with each Mobike’s lifespan estimated at 4 years of fix-free cycling. Each bicycle is connected to the Mobike IoT network via GPS-embedded smart lock; forming one of the largest IoT networks on the globe.
Some of this isn't accurate for DC - apparently Mobike bikes are usually single speed bikes with a shaft drive (no bicycle chain, but rather a drive shaft like a car). Here, in their first US location, Mobike decided to have a three speed gear system and apparently for the time being they aren't able to combine a low cost durable three speed hub with their shaft drive system, so you get a bike chain (with chain guard to keep chain grease off clothes). Some of it sounds good in one way but is more about reducing the company need for bike maintenance than anything else - as they mention, they hope for "4 years of fix-free cycling." (Four years without lubricating the chain will be . . . interesting.) So the "non-puncture airless tires" (by which them mean flat proof) are mostly about avoiding any company time spent fixing flat tires and not because you are going to prefer the ride of a bicycle with hard tires. (Part of the genius of the basic bicycle design is that the shock absorbing system is built into the inflatable tire, which is mostly not possible with airless tires.) And the "auto-inspired five-spoke wheel" (that has five pairs of spokes, or ten spokes, but OK) is also about low maintenance since unlike regular bike spokes, no maintenance or adjustment of spokes like these is even possible. (The idea that people using bicycles want something inspired by automobile design is curious.)

To get back to the subject at hand. Mobike's PR continues:
Mobike’s distinctive silver and orange bikes will be initially deployed at key downtown locations such as DC Metro stations, university campuses, and public parks. To use the service, users simply need to download the Mobike app, register, and scan the QR code on the bike.
While they may have been "deployed at key downtown locations" this one has been ridden to an obscure South Arlington location where hundreds if not thousands of people have seen it there. Since use of the app is presumably still becoming commonplace, in the course of a full week no one has been interested in using this thing. And Mobike, which is presumably seeing it with their gigantic "Internet of things" network, can't be bothered to move it to some place where it might be useful since that would cost money.

Is there anything seriously wrong with this scenario? Not sure.

Post Script: After a week and a day, the bike disappeared from that location. Perhaps the Mobike people reacted to my tweet (to them) on the subject.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Dockless Bikeshare Parking Example

MoBike in front of Library of Congress Madison building
MoBike in front of Library of Congress Madison building

The most recent rider left it near the front door. The nearest bike rack is about 100 feet away, just barely visible in this photograph (if you click on it and zoom in). As it happens, the nearest bike racks were all full, but a plaza like this isn't intended for bike parking on a random basis like this.

Monday, September 25, 2017

LimeBikes on Mt Vernon Trail Near National Airport

LimeBikes near National Airport on Mt Vernon Trail
Two LimeBike bikeshare bikes parked on the grass just off Mt Vernon trail

At around 6:45 AM, there were two of these LimeBikes in the same location, although one was on its side. I was surprised to find that they were still here on my ride home, around 4:45 PM. Now though both were on their kickstands, looking like they were posed for a bikeshare ad!

The LimeBike user agreement states, "Upon conclusion of your ride, the Bike must be parked at a lawful parking spot, i.e. the Bike cannot be parked on private property or in a locked area or in any other non-public space." Keep in mind that these dockless bikeshare bikes are "locked" by disabling the ability of the rear wheel, but not locked to a fixed object. One wonders if the Park Service thinks of the areas adjacent to the trail as a "lawful parking spot" for such bikes.

In Seattle there was considerable discussion before permits were issued to operators of dockless bikeshare systems about where they could and should not have their bikes parked. That hasn't happened here as far as I have seen, with DC government in particular taking a wait-and-see attitude.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

LimeBikes on the Mall (Dockless Bikeshare Arrives in DC)

LimeBikes on National Mall
While jogging during lunch Friday September 22 I came across these two LimeBikes

I almost wonder if the LimeBike people put these here like this, or if some users actually left them aligned with this bike rack. I have yet to see a MoBike bicycle around, but two days after these were announced as being available (I think that's right) here these are at lunch time on Friday September 22.

When I rode home hours later, I saw another one parked on a sidewalk along Independence. It was not near a rack, just standing on the sidewalk held upright by its kickstand. Because people here are used to bicycles being locked to something, these bikes seem odd just standing with a lock merely disabling the back wheel (using a Dutch bike approach). In the above case, the bikes are nicely placed near bike racks, which I suppose keeps them more likely to remain upright but also makes it harder for anyone else to use the rack as intended. Hmm.

I loaded the MoBike and LimeBike Android apps. The MoBike app was a lot more intrusive, more or less asking if it could have access to everything on the phone. Really? Why? I declined to give access to anything other than location, so perhaps that it why the map labels displayed in Chinese - a map of Washington DC, but still. The MoBike app was also in a big hurry to have me "top up" an account with some $ from a credit card. Whoo, let's see where these bikes are, first! The LimeBike app seems to be tailored for the US, which is a better approach I would say, and only wanted to know my location, which makes sense. It noted that the first ride is free and didn't start hitting me up for $. So aside from the fact that I have seen LimeBikes near where I work in DC (and not a MoBike) I already like LimeBike better than MoBike.

I'm curious to see if dockless bikeshare can work in Washington DC that already has a successful "regular" bikeshare system. My doubts include whether people will really park them properly (whatever that might mean, which isn't clear to me, except that certain kinds of bike parking will not work well) and whether a system that only locks the bike wheel and not the bike to a fixed object can work. Among other doubts . . .

I might give one a try. We'll see. First ride is free, after all.

As an aside, I did manage easily enough not to use a car on "Car Free" day (9/22/2017) but it was pretty much business as usual, commuting to/from work on a bike and not going anywhere in the evening requiring a car. So I'm not thinking I should give myself too much credit for that one . . .

Saturday, April 29, 2017

New Sort of Bike Share ? Maybe

OFO and UNDP US-Launch Event
ofo bikes in New York City, not for use but for a press event (it seems)

Here is the press release about "UNDP [United Nations Development Programme], Chinese bike-sharing start-up ofo join forces to support innovative solutions to climate change challenges."

An article in the Economist ("The Return of Pedal Power...") last week described a new (to me at least, but not entirely new it seems) bike share system that frees users from having to get or leave the bikes from fixed locking stations, rather a rider gets to a destination and locks the bike wherever, then other users can find it there and access it for their use with a smartphone app.

The ofo system is in use in China and Singapore and also San Francisco - in SF it is known as BlueGoGo. Not surprisingly there is a web site.

The Bluegogo Medium channel has a step-by-step description of the process for San Francisco usage. However the SF model, apparently reflecting a lack of enthusiasm for the "leave your bike any old place" model in a US city, does have docking stations - "When you finish the ride, easily return your bluegogo bike to any of the stations (list of bluegogo stations can be found within the app or here) and lock it." Except the link to a map for the stations is 404. Not very encouraging.

U.S. video of how to use BlueGoGo bikeshare bikes, which does not mention use of locking stations

Generic ofo instructions for accessing a bike in China without a docking station


After I published this blog post, then I found this blog post that explains more about BlueGoGo and its dockless competitor that is a company called Spin which is looking at setting up in Seattle, where the most recent publicly operated bike share failed.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Bike Share Pricing, Paris vs US

Me some years back with a Velibe bicycle in Paris

I am fortunate enough to have a trip planned to Paris in a week. I will be at some meetings at the national library for most of the week. Very nice. The hotel I will be at is about 3 km from the national library, along the Seine river. It is very easy to navigate back and forth using a bikeshare bike from Velibe.

I have already purchased my seven day subscription for Velibe when I will be in Paris. The cost is only 8 Euros for a week. By comparison, CitiBike in NYC is 9.95 (plus tax!) for one day and $25 (again, plus tax!) for a seven day "access pass." Capital Bikeshare here in the DC area is at once more and less - $7 for 24 hours but there is no seven day option, rather one can pay $15 for three days - uck. (Taxes are apparently included for Capital Bikeshare.)

The American view of pricing bikeshare is that the operational costs are supposed to more or less be covered by the user fees - but typically the short term rental folks are subsidizing those with annual subscriptions so it is all relative. In Paris they must be taking the view that bikeshare is more like public transit, where typically "the farebox" (revenue direct from users) is only a portion of the support. This so-called farebox recovery rate can be all over the place - in Austin Texas, it seems to be less than ten percent! - while in Chicago it is more than 50 percent. But for now Americans want bikeshare to pay for itself - 100 percent.

Hmm. Ironically my use of Velibe in Paris will be covered by the American taxpayer who will be funding this incidental expense of my trip, so the French taxpayer is, in this very very minor way, subsiding the US of A.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bike Share in Boston


I'm visiting Boston for work for a couple of days and have been using their bike share system. Here is the station in front of Boston Public Library.

I found out I would be traveling to Boston rather late so I ended up with a hotel about three miles from Boston Public Library where the meetings were held. There was a bike share station on Commonwealth Avenue about a third of a mile from the hotel and from there it was a straight shot most of the way on Commonwealth Avenue by bike to Boston Public Library. Commonwealth Avenue has a green painted bike lane most of the way. It was very nice, even on a heavy Bikeshare bike (or perhaps particularly on such a bike).

It takes a little getting used to, riding along on that busy a street with the busses in particular right along side. It seemed much better however than simple sharrows or sharing a traffic lane with motor vehicles. (I am not a follower of John Forester, in other words.)

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Comparing Cycling in the U.S. and the Netherlands - Valid?

I am reading In the City of Bikes: The Story of the Amsterdam Cyclist" that turns out to be more of a history of this subject and less of a memoir than I was expecting. I will write a review of it when I am finished.

As someone who reads and thinks about how cycling could be better supported in the U.S., the Netherlands comes up as a model often, although I have to wonder about its validity as such. In some cases, people make comparisons or talk about aspects of cycling in the Netherlands and it isn't clear if they are holding the Netherlands approach up as a model or simply an example of how it can be different than it is here. The later seems more useful to me since the likelihood of our ending up with anything vaguely like what the Netherlands has to support urban (and interurban) cycling absent their 100+ history in this area along (not to mention all the other factors) seems rather low.

With that in mind, however, it can be interesting to look at examples of this "conversation."

Cycling in the US from a Dutch perspective from this blogger

The above video provides a quick understanding of how at least one Dutch cyclist views the American approach to cycling. I don't disagree with any of this analysis as such but in a short overview like this he presumably includes those points that he considers most significant and leaves others out. In my own experience, it has been difficult to transition from an automobile-centered way of thinking to actually using bicycles for more routine day-to-day transportation needs. I have several bikes that I use for commuting the 20 miles round trip (~34 km) to and from work, but these bikes have pedals requiring special shoes and as road bikes are not very good for riding a mile to the grocery store or library for those kinds of errands. So for many years I have ridden a bike consistently to and from work over a fairly long distance, with special clothing and appearing to be in a great hurry (since this doubles as my exercise program) but then I drive very short distances to do things where I would want to arrive wearing street clothes. Kind of strange.

Recently I have started using another bike that is a much more upright one, with a three speed hub shift (and therefore incapable of speedsterish activity), to ride back and forth to places a mile or less away to do errands, without changing into some special cycling clothes. I have been surprised and I suppose a little amused at how enjoyable this is.

Capital Bikeshare arrives in my extendedneighborhood, but closer to my typical destination for short rides-still, nice to have it around

In a roundabout way of thinking, I feel that bikeshare programs, such as the Capital Bikeshare program here in the Washington DC area, are very helpful with modeling and enabling this kind of cycling.

"Infamous" video of bicycle commuters at an intersection in Ultrecht (not Amsterdam) illustrating the level of cycling in an urban setting in the Netherlands

This video serves as a counterpoint to the first video looking at cycling in the U.S., illustrating the significant differences in the scale of cycling as an activity. While I don't think the Netherlands can be our "model" for where we want cycling in the U.S. to end up, it certainly illustrates that cycling on a scale that rivals and even exceeds use of motor vehicles is possible and that specialized infrastructure (or as the video's narrator says, "infra") can be created to support that level of activity. (It's noteworthy that the Dutch observer in his video takes the benefits of specialized infrastructure to support cycling as a given - no "vehicular cycling" for him.)

It's also interesting to see how the Dutch cyclists comply with their traffic signals in this video, for the most part. At a few points there are riders who ignore the light, but the vast majority comply.

This syncs with a recent report that in Portland stoplight cameras studied showed that there was 94 percent compliance with stop lights by cyclists. What?? Really?? Yes. Of course the obvious reason for why this could be true in Portland (and not quite what I observe around here) is that they have a larger number of cyclists and that as a community they act to informally enforce or support good (or anyway legal) behavior while in situations that I see often here of one or two cyclists and a zillion cars, it is much more tempting or attractive not to.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Online Book About Bikesharing Programs

Public bikesharing in North America : early operator and user understanding

Available here as a PDF.

A few bikes are "checked out"
Capital Bikeshare station in Arlington

LCCN permalink:
Type of material: Book (Print, Microform, Electronic, etc.)
Personal name: Shaheen, Susan A., 1966-
Main title: Public bikesharing in North America : early operator and user understanding / Susan A. Shaheen ... [et al.].
Published/Created: San Jose, CA : Mineta Transportation Institute, College of Business, San José State University ; [Springfield, VA : Available through the National Technical Information Service, c2012.
Description: xiv, 138 p. : ill., maps ; 28 cm.

This is a "high level" review of the topic. It's good that it covers all possible issues and provides summary breakdowns in many categories but from this you usually won't know what the situation is with a particular bikeshare system for any particular category.

Monday, April 16, 2012

LA Gets the Shaft (Drive Bikeshare Bikes)

The LA Times has an article about a new bikeshare program in Los Angeles: "Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa will unveil a $16-million bike-share program Sunday that aims to put thousands of bicycles at hundreds of rental kiosks across the city."

Much of how the LA bikeshare program will be structured is like Capital Bikeshare (which isn't particularly surprising) however the bikes themselves are fairly different. I don't really get how the company, Bike Nation, makes money at this - they pick up the entire capital investment cost (the sixteen million bucks). Here is another description of the business aspects - the comments are fairly interesting.

BikeShare Bike Patent
It appears this patent is for the Bike Nation bikeshare bike, with airless tires, shaft drive, and absurd basket (but not with final design's step through frame)

To me the technical aspects of the Bike Nation bikeshare bike are the most interesting. The LA Times article notes that, "The bicycles are made without a chain and have special tires to reduce the possibility that they will get a flat or break down during their trip."

Opinionated as I may be (for someone who doesn't really know that much), I do not have strong feelings about the airless tire business. Sheldon Brown, some years ago, didn't express much enthusiasm, noting that, "Airless tires have been obsolete for over a century, but crackpot 'inventors' keep trying to bring them back. They are heavy, slow and give a harsh ride. They are also likely to cause wheel damage, due to their poor cushioning ability. A pneumatic tire uses all of the air in the whole tube as a shock absorber, while foam-type 'airless' tires/tubes only use the air in the immediate area of impact." However it doesn't seem impossible that someone clever could come up with a design that could do a decent job with shock absorbing and not add much weight or performance problems. It does appear that most airless tires to date are not very easy to get on or on the wheel rim, but for a bikeshare bike that would be a mechanic's problem.

I have much less enthusiasm for the shaft drive idea.

The Bike Nation bike doesn't use a traditional chain but rather a shaft drive. Shaft drives have been around since the 1890s but never really caught on since they are (a) more expensive, and (b) less efficient. Also, taking a rear wheel off a bike with a shaft drive is going to be more annoying to repair a flat than a standard chain bike (but of course not a problem there with airless tires!).

Shaft Drive patent, 1894
Shaft drive bikes have been around . . . practically forever

Shaft drive intuitively seemed to some like a great idea compared to "dirty" traditional chains, but they never became popular. For motorcycles somewhat, for bicycles no. That doesn't mean that various bike companies haven't tried to bring it back from time to time . . .

Eventually Bike Nation will supply more info about "What’s so special about the Bike Nation bicycle?" but for now, the link for "more info here" doesn't work. (Perhaps they are still doing research.)

Me & a Rental Bike in Paris
A bikeshare program bike in Paris, with a chain and air-filled tires - but what do the French know about cycling

Also, the French bikeshare bike has a deep basket, while the LA bikeshare bike has a flat shallow basket. I guess with bungee cords stuff could be made to stay in the basket.