As time goes, we become more accustomed to the bike sharing stations on our streets, and that’s in the US. Some eight or ten years ago these structures were looking awkwardly, at least.
Even though bike sharing can be a way (not the only one, however) to make our life a little easier in large metropolitan areas, it faces lots of impediments on its way – from citizens opposing the concept in general to city authorities who don’t like the idea in general.
The reasoning they have to support their claims oftentimes makes sense.
Argument 1: If a bike sharing station replaces a parking space, it causes even more traffic congestion
That’s partially true, but let’s have a look at a bigger picture. How many passengers can a car carry? Well, usually four. However, when compared to bike sharing’s target audience, it’s fair to compare those who drive alone, and ride a bike alone, for that matter.
So instead of one car parked along the curb, we could place eight or even ten bikes on a rack. Oh, and at least the drivers are practicing perfect parallel parking skills, they need some space to enter and exit a parking spot, so that’s another eight bikes, easily.
By now the math tells us that one car parked takes space from approx. sixteen bikes.
Argument 2: Most of the time we see the bike sharing stations, they are stacked with bikes, no one is using them.
Well, that’s true for some periods of the day, but the same applies to cars, right? If you have a look at your city’s main highways or freeways in the morning and compare that to lunch break, these would be two completely different roads.
What’s interesting, sometimes you can see people oppose bike sharing in cities where these problems are critical, and whether a coincidence or not, these are the same towns that have the lowest percentage of bike commuters.
On the positive note, as opposed to car commuting, bike sharing is heavily used during weekends, thus boosting the economy of downtowns on less active days.
Argument 3: Bike sharing only make things worse – sharing stations are vandalized, bikes are damaged and thrown around
This indeed was a problem when bike sharing was a new phenomenon. Now, as we’re getting used to them, so are vandals, and as a result, less and less accidents like that occur.
Argument 4: Bike sharing companies are for-profit businesses, why do we need to share public space with them, not to mention tax-payer dollars?
Well, that’s a fair argument. It’s worth mentioning, though, that tax dollars are rarely spent on these initiatives, if any, at all.
The way these businesses keep working is largely because of private capital and investments, and they don’t make any money. Big funds and private companies keep pouring the cash in, hoping for future profit. But the latter never comes from the bike sharing itself, most often through other channels like ads on the rear wheel.
As for public spaces, that’s true. Even though the racks and stations are often placed with considerations of public comfort and in order to minimize the effect on business, that can cause inconveniences.
However, let’s imagine an ideal world where we commute by (mostly) bikes, at least in the most crowded areas. How much of that space occupied by cars could actually be reclaimed?
While these arguments above are certainly not the only disagreements you can hear related to bike sharing, they are the most commonly used.
And we need to trace why it’s actually opposed to the roots of the issue. It just could be that people oppose change, even if this change is the right thing to do.
Yes, it’s not encouraging to see images like this:
But, maybe, just maybe, the problem is not bike sharing or bikes in general, but the problem is us – not willing to give a new way of transportation a try on our streets?