Imagine a new public transportation system for Sacramento, flexible, cheap and sustainable, providing cardio-workout benefits and devouring near-zero energy. The system is neither experimental nor destined to become obsolete in a few years. In fact, it's been tested in various formats for years and is established globally as a marvel of engineering logic.
Welcome to Bike Share, a system that uses sturdy, basket-bedecked bicycles and membership cards to let riders pedal where they wish and drop their conveyances at convenient docking stations.
A group of Bike Share enthusiasts, coordinated by the offices of the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District and with strong participation from Regional Transit, the Capitol Corridor rail service, the cities of Sacramento and Davis, local business associations and others, has been studying Bike Share. The preliminary results are encouraging. Now it's time to dig deeper.
Soon, the regional Bike Share group will request proposals for a detailed implementation study to drill down and find answers to the fundamental question of how Bike Share would work in Sacramento.
Those key questions are logistical and financial. Bike Share costs money, especially in the early stages when docking stations are built and bikes obtained.
While many successful models for building and operating Bike Share already exist in cities across the United States and around the world YouTube features a marvelous "NACTO-Capital Bikeshare" video highlighting the remarkable success of the Washington, D.C., program nobody can say for sure whether a comprehensive Bike Share system would work in Sacramento. The next step an implementation study should go a long way toward providing answers.
It's easy to see why Bike Share is worth serious consideration in Sacramento. For one thing, bicycling is already part of the fabric of our region. Sacramento, Davis, Roseville and Folsom are certified as Bicycle-Friendly Communities by the League of American Bicyclists. Tens of thousands of residents take daily advantage of bike lanes and bike trails for exercise and commuting to work and school. Our weather and terrain are nearly perfect for cycling. We appreciate the opportunity to get out of our cars and onto a healthy and harmonious mode of transportation the bicycle.
While Bike Share would be new to Sacramento, it's part of the urban landscape in many cities. We would not be an experiment. There's plenty of experience to draw upon. If Sacramento were to follow other cities, Bike Share could look something like this:
A circle of approximately one mile would be drawn around key locations, such as the Capitol or the Sacramento or Davis train stations. Within that mile radius, perhaps 20 to 50 docking stations and kiosks would be built, each supporting about 10 bicycles. Stations would be strategically positioned near office buildings, transit hubs, parking and retail areas. Riders would buy daily, weekly, monthly or annual memberships, and receive cards to unlock any bike from any station. Users would access info regarding kiosk location and bicycle availability via their smartphones. As use patterns are established, crews would move bikes to balance supply and demand.
In transportation, planners use the term "First and Last Mile" to describe the black hole of commuting the first and final legs of a journey that discourage people from using public transit. Bike Share can help close the gap.
This is why Bike Share is so important for our region: Imagine an integrated system that would make shared bikes available from transit and commuter hubs in Sacramento, Roseville, Folsom, Elk Grove and Davis or even San Francisco, San Jose, Stockton and Modesto cheap and efficient, all with the wave of a card.
The time has come to seriously explore the costs, benefits and viability of a new, self-propelled transit system that can make us healthier and save millions of dollars in transportation and environmental costs for generations to come.