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Social Equity and Bike Sharing Systems

Sometime between dinner with a friend last night and waking up this morning, the back tire on my bike completely deflated. Sure, I know how to fix a flat, but it was early, I was groggy — and I needed to get out the door. Digging out my tire levers, rooting around for a spare tube and fighting with the super-tight bolts on my back wheel wasn’t the way I was hoping to start the day.

Luckily, I had another option.

Capital Bikeshare (Credit: goDCgo)

Within a one-block radius of my apartment in Southwest D.C. there were no fewer than three dozen ready-to-ride bikes just waiting to be unlocked with my little red Capital Bikeshare key. In less than two minutes, I was pedaling my way downtown — no tire maintenance required.

Across the country, bike sharing systems are dramatically growing the ranks of transportation cyclists, making it easy and convenient to pedal short trips or travel that last mile after a multi-modal commute. Already, we’re seeing more cyclists riding Capital Bikeshare here in D.C., and major cities like New York and Los Angeles are getting in the game later this year.

But as these systems proliferate, are they benefiting everyone who wants to ride? Are the stations distributed equitably or centralized in certain neighborhoods? Are the pricing structures and policies accessible to all residents, or do you have to have a credit card and a smartphone to find and pay for a ride?

How are bike share systems addressing these complex challenges? Last week, the Federal Transit Administration and the National Center for Transit Research hosted a webinar on “Social Equity and Bikesharing” to tackle these very questions.

Bikesharing systems are rolling out all over the country, attracting new riders to bicycling as transportation, and providing a convenient way to access other transit services. But a significant challenge for system planners and managers is ensuring that this new and exciting means of transportation can be accessed by a wide cross-section of the community. This webinar provided an overview of exciting and innovative ways that systems are pursuing social equity in bikesharing, and provide summaries and lessons learned from Capital Bikeshare in Arlington, VA, and Hubway in Boston, MA.

Great presentation; view the webinar or download the presenters’ slides here.


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