The War on Bikes: Atlanta’s New Bikeshare Mass Transit System

by David Benoit

WomanParisBike

I remember the first time I saw bikeshare. The year was 2007, and I was living in Paris. My memory is so vivid about the experience of utilizing bikeshare, though I have no idea why my memory decided to store such a banal moment of my life. There could have been another memory to replace it several times over—that girl I met at a bar who gave me her number even though I thought I had no chance; the ’57 Chevy that a friend let me use to go to the store, but instead I tore ass up the interstate for an hour longer than I should have. Those memories didn’t happen, but bikeshare did.

The shared bikes were a dull gray that blended into the background of the Parisian mid-rise buildings. If you weren’t looking close enough, you would easily miss them. Perhaps the gray camouflage was on purpose. After all, they’re a utility, not a fashion statement, which, in my experience, the French differentiate between well enough.

The great City of Atlanta has recently announced that they are rolling out their bikeshare. That’s right, ATLiens, you did hear it here first! If you didn’t, we still scooped!

So here I am, at least, left with another soon-to-be-created memory to store in the memory banks. The only question that lays ahead of our fair City officials is what to name the bike. Should it be the “Delta Sky-Bike?” Or should naming rights go to the “Home Depot Chopper?” The “Coca-Cola Sprite?” Or any other company that wants to spring for the chetto to name these shiny new vélos. For all intents and purposes, our fledgling bikeshare system is a new method of public transportation and, for that matter, a new transit system integrated into our use of MARTA, regional bus service, sidewalks and, of course, bike lanes.

waroncarsHowever, descending upon us are now the questions that will tear a public meeting apart in this City. I truly believe that not only will the car vs. bicycle argument begin to rear its ugly head more often. More interested yet concerned people on bicycles who dare to brave our new toys and find themselves on the roadways amongst the suburbanites will argue that traffic isn’t moving fast enough for them. Well, I have to say where I stand on that notion: don’t come to the City if you aren’t willing to love the City. If you say your employment is here, then get another job closer to where you’re more wanted. And that’s all I have to say about that.

On the flip side of the “War on Cars” argument will be the growing number of bicycle advocates who will demand from their city, our City, safe passage for their newly found, healthy, climate-change-proof method of transit. Frankly, the people using bikes will make demands from a City who lacks the funding (except if the Transportation Bond passes March 17th) needed to install quality, safe bicycle lanes that are properly separated from the threats of road-ragers. Not to forget to mention the limited roadway width that is often unavailable for both cars and people on bikes. That is, of course, if we feel like giving up precious parking, which we all know there is too much of anyway.

Amongst all this bullshit that I assume is about to ensue, there is one bright shining fact that people on bicycle advocates can revel in and road-ragers can fear: bikeshare is good for business, and that’s it. Everyone wants to bitch, and then sing the imposing slogan “good for business” as they gallop off to the voting booth. Well the numbers don’t lie. In a recent study conducted in Washington DC entitled Economic Benefits of Capital Bikeshare: A Focus on Users and Businesses, researchers found:

“20% of the businesses report a positive impact of bikesharing on sales, and 70% identify a positive impact on the neighborhood. In addition, 61% would have either a positive or neutral reaction to replacing car parking in front of their business with a bikeshare station. Overall, findings suggest bikesharing may generate benefits among both users and businesses.”


AmsterdamBikeLane

By all means, a study on Capital Bikeshare isn’t the end-all-be-all of economic analysis of bikesharing, but it’s a lot more in favor than not. I couldn’t find any analysis therein refuting the economic benefits of bikeshare. When googling variations of the words “bikeshare is not working,” the only references I could find were complaints of individual bikeshare stations proving inoperable and in need of repair.

The truth is, only time will tell if bikeshare will be a success in Atlanta. There are a lot of variables stacked against the bicycle in a notoriously car-centric city. Perhaps we all should advocate for new zoning code, and force the developers to install the fancy bike paths we need.

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