Bike Share Takes a Spin

Today’s front page feel good story involves the new bike sharing system that just launched yesterday in Memphis.

Explore Bike Share touts 600 rental bikes stationed around the city. I saw one yesterday near McLean.

For $5 you can rent a bike for an hour and go where you want. The system uses a mobile phone app that tells you the location of stations and bikes, equipped with GPS and a flat screen computer. There are 60 stations around Memphis.

The promoters want to supplant cars on the road, while giving visitors a chance to sightsee. Many other cities have it, such as New Orleans, Boulder, Seattle and Minneapolis.

Funding came from donations plus a $2.2 million federal Congestion Mitigation Air Quality grant. In other words, our taxes are paying for a chunk of it.

However, have officials given enough thought to the consequences? Everyone wants clean air (although the effect has got to be microscopic) and healthy activities for citizens (if they use it), but there may be problems.

Memphis drivers, for one. It’s hard enough to avoid bad drivers while you’re in a car, but can they handle keeping attention on cyclists? Many haven’t adjusted to the bike lanes, much less bicyclists. Who will pay in accidents? Is there liability when helmets aren’t provided? This could get sticky.

Has anyone independently checked out how the program is working in other cities? Would it be fair to expect the same level of driving ability here as in Seattle, where many have already been using bikes? What about theft?

A comment on Nextdoor raises doubts. Someone wrote, “Its ambitious and I hope for the best…but having been to many cities with these relatively new bike share programs…generally, they do not seem to be working so well. They seem to be forever broken and the racks often empty and they have to go find the bikes after they are randomly abandoned anywhere and everywhere. I also don’t understand why nearly all of the locations are in relatively affluent areas where the residents likely have bikes already. It would seem this idea would be better serviced with stations in affluent and poor areas so people could start and stop all over not just start in a nice area and end in a nice area. I don’t know…hopefully it works but I can’t help but be skeptical.”

Me, too.

It’s such a progressive idea, that I’m afraid whether it works will never be truthfully told by any media here.

The program may just be spinning its wheels. We’ll see.

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