Last time Verify did a bike share story, in September, it was kind of quaint. You actually had to hunt a little bit to find a bike. Now they're everywhere.
I get it, there are probably too many of them. They clutter up the sidewalks and it’s making people grumpy.
But this story is not about problems, it's about opportunities.
And our question is: Are all these new bikes pushing Dallas to be a bike-friendly city?
THE LAST MILE
For a dollar, anyone can bike share. Pick it up wherever. Leave it wherever. Preferably not in the middle of the sidewalk.
I'm hitting the streets with Amanda Popken. She’s on the board of Bike Friendly Oak Cliff and advocates for better street designs to keep bicyclists safe.
“I think bike share has given us an opportunity that we knew that we wanted and suddenly it's arrived,” Amanda told me.
One big opportunity is a problem called "the last mile." To learn more, we met up at the train station in Deep Ellum. We want to go from there to a coffee shop about a mile away.
Hop on bike. Problem solved.
“It makes it so much easier, for even a novice who doesn't ride a bicycle on a regular basis to just pick one up and start teetering around,” she said.
BIKE SHARE BUSINESS
Anthony Fleo is the local General Manger of LimeBike, which operates in 40 US cities. To address the clutter problem, he's promised the City of Dallas that they’ll add more staff and stop adding new bikes.
“Dallas is the largest bike share city in the entire country right now,” Anthony told me.
“Really? By what standards?” I ask.
“New York has 10,000 bicycles. They were previously the largest bike share city in the country. Dallas has now exceeded that,” he said.
“Amazing. How many bikes are in Dallas?” I ask.
“Not sure about the other operators and their counts. But we have 10,000 bikes in Dallas,” he said.
“You have 10,000 bikes in Dallas. So, you alone have more than in New York?” I ask.
“Correct,” said Anthony.
All told, between the other bike share companies also operating here, the City of Dallas says there may be 18,000 bikes here. That’s a lot of bikes but the silver lining is all of them collect GPS Data. In a letter to the city LimeBike says, since August:
- 70,000 people have rented a bike
- Saturday's the biggest with almost 5800 rides
- 20% of trips start or end near a transit station
“It's just the data. Data-driven decisions are better than, 'we could put in a bike lane here or here,'” Anthony said.
Now that Amanda and I have had our coffee, I want to look at some of the heat maps LimeBike also provided the city. They show the popular spots where people pick up bikes.
“So, I was thinking we should go on McKinney Ave,” I said to Amanda after seeing it, prominently, on the heat map.
“Yeah. Because it's difficult. Because there's lots of traffic. And there's the trolley,” she said.
“And it's popular for biking, apparently,” I said.
Dallas gets low scores for its lack of investment in bike infrastructure and bike culture. And while there are more recreational trails coming online this study, by real estate firm Redfin, concluded Dallas has "minimal bike infrastructure" ranking #122 out of 154 cities.
“We need to take out a lane on either side. Add sidewalk room and add bike lanes,” Amanda said while we bike on McKinney Avenue.
Part of being bike-friendly is having bike lanes. But right now, the city only spends 1/10th of 1% of its total budget on that, or $500,000.
“The more people who experience how lovely it is and how convenient it is to be to bike and walk places the more political will we'll have to make that a priority,” she said.
DECISIONS FROM DATA
Jared White is Dallas' Bicycle Transportation Manager. Complaints about bikes littering sidewalks go right to his inbox.
“There are some issues that do come up. I see it every day. But it's fixable. But it's an interesting problem to have. I think I'd rather be dealing with this then why Dallas doesn't have bike share,” he said.
The City could decide to regulate the number of bikes and how they must be parked. But he thinks bike share is helpful for the city, because it can use the data to pinpoint where bike lanes should go.
“That could help our policymakers, so it’s not just city staff saying we need to a put a bike lane in here. We have this data to show it,” he said.
Dallas just went from not-a-bike city to the biggest bike share city in America. So yeah, it's a bit of mess right now.
But they're driving a city-wide conversation. The data shows people are using these bikes. And the city says it will use all this information to better plan for bike lanes.
So, are all these bikes pushing Dallas to be a more bike-friendly city? The answer is yes.
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