On April 22, Denver, Colo., will become the second US city to launch a large-scale bike-sharing program. Not only will the program help residents and visitors save money on gas and parking, it’ll cut an estimated 15 pounds of air pollution for every four-mile round-trip.
In Santa Fe, progress has been slow on a bike- and car-share center first committed to paper nine years ago in the Railyard Master Plan. But momentum is building: Last week, the City Council agreed to a lease on the old State Archives building on Montezuma Avenue, intended to house the "Multi-Modal Center."
"Given these economic times, it'll probably be bare-bones," Councilor Patti Bushee tells SFR.
Bushee estimates the center will cost approximately $200,000 to design and $1 million to build.
The details for a Santa Fe bike-share program are wide-open. Most programs require a membership. Denver B-cycle charges a nominal fee ($5 a day, $30 a month or $65 a year), in exchange for a swipe-card that can be used to borrow bikes from stations around the city. The concept is much like Zipcar, the nationwide private car-share chain, which maintains three cars at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, and which Bushee says may also be invited to the Railyard.
With bike-share programs commonplace in Europe and increasingly popular elsewhere, SFR reviewed what works—and doesn't—in the world of bike sharing.
WASHINGTON, DC: Clear Channel manages the city's two-year-old SmartBike program, with 100 bikes at 10 locations.
Pros: Low theft rates and good buzz (DC was the first US city to make bike-sharing work) make SmartBike a success.
Cons: The small scale limits its usefulness for most residents and visitors.
Lessons: A modest victory is better than a huge failure—or nothing.
DENVER: Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper was a key backer of the privately managed bike-share program that'll kick off with 40 stations and 500 bikes.
Pros: The distinctive red B-cycles boast GPS and RFID homing devices to deter hoodlums and track down the bikes in the event they do get stolen.
Cons: Start-up costs were high. Fortunately for taxpayers, the program's first $1 million in seed money came from the Democratic Party, as a gift for hosting the 2008 Democratic National Convention; sizable contributions followed from institutions including the Gates Family and Anschutz foundations.
Lessons: In addition to a cooperative bureaucracy, a successful program needs powerful, deep-pocketed supporters.
MONTREAL: The first fully government-managed bike-share in North America, Montreal's BIXI system launched last May with 3,000 bikes and 300 stations.
Pros: BIXI has reportedly broken even on user fees, even without the significant advertising revenue that supports other programs.
Cons: The city's parking authority took two years to get things rolling, versus six months for Paris' privately run program, according to Fast Company magazine.
Lessons: If an effective city government is that slow, a Santa Fe bike share will almost certainly need an enthusiastic private partner.
TEHRAN: A city-funded bike-share launched last year in the capital of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Pros: Membership is only $2 a year.
Cons: Women aren't allowed to ride.
Lessons: A successful program should be open to more than 50 percent of the population.
PARIS: The mother of all bike-shares, Vélib launched in 2007.
Pros: The program's massive scale encourages widespread participation, with an average of 74,000 trips every day.
Cons: Half of the first batch of 15,000 bicycles was stolen or vandalized within 18 months, according to the BBC. The company in charge—which gets paid with in-kind ad space and a cut of fee income—demanded extra public money.
Lessons: Parisians have sticky fingers. Santa Fe's juvenile crime rates may be cause for concern—but unique bike design and tracking systems can mitigate theft.