Bike Share in St. Louis--has the time come?

Bike share systems are sweeping the country.  The systems, which provide a network of bike stations conveniently placed throughout a city or part of a city, encourage short-term rentals for short trips, generally 30 minutes or less. 

Bike Share systems place stations at convenient locations around the city
Bike Share systems place stations at convenient locations around the city

Bike share seems to be an idea whose time has come in the U.S.  Bike share really took off in 2012 in the U.S.--and then accelerated even more in 2013.  Since January 2013 the number of bike share systems in the U.S. has doubled. New York opened a massive--and massively successful Bike Share system this year, Chicago's Bike Share system recently opened, and four cities in the San Francisco Bay Area opened a large Bike Share system just this week.

Bike share systems greatly increase the amount of bicycling in the areas where stations are placed--helping tip the balance towards creating more bikable, walkable, livable neighborhoods.  They have been a big part of ensuring the success of other, related bicycle accommodations like lanes, bicycle routes, and trail connections in cities like Washington, DC, Minneapolis, Denver, and New York.

Adding a bike share system to the heart of a city is probably the single fastest and most effective way to increase the amount of bicycling in an area--and also reap all the benefits of increased bicycling mode share, from better health to lower pollution and decreased congestion.

So what about Missouri?

Kansas City was first on board with Bike Share, opening the state's first municipal Bike Share system in time for last summer's All Star Game.  (The Missouri Foundation for Bicycling & Walking was proud to play a part in making that happen, by acting as fiscal sponsor for key grants that helped the Kansas City B Cycle system get off the ground.)  Kansas City B Cycle is now looking to expand its system. 

Kansas City B Cycle
Kansas City B Cycle

Now it looks like St. Louis will open its own Bike Share system.  Over the past month, Mayor Slay has publicly committed to creating a new Bike Share system in the city, according to the Riverfront Times:

The city of St. Louis will have a bike-sharing program.

So says the office of Mayor Francis Slay, which is now partnering with several entities to launch the first step of pursuing a bike-share program similar to the ones that have been successful in major cities across the United States.

"Promoting a cycling-friendly city has been a priority of the mayor," Patrick Brown, assistant to Slay, tells Daily RFT. "We brought our operating departments a long way in understanding benefits and community-building potential that lies within giving people this additional option for transportation.... Bike-sharing is just an extension of that. It really will help to promote the commuters and the tourists within the city."

Trailnet and Great Rivers Greenway are also working to support the Bike Share plan, according to a Post-Dispatch article:

Ann Rivers Mack, executive director of Trailnet, said she has sought out bike-sharing programs while visiting cities in the U.S. and Europe. “I think they’re fantastic,” she told the Ride Guy. Trailnet promotes walking and bicycling in the St. Louis region. . . .

The Great Rivers Greenway — a taxpayer-funded agency that is developing a bicycle trail network throughout the region — will pursue a feasibility study for the St. Louis area.

Todd Antoine, planning director at Great Rivers, said the geographic area likely would be limited to the city and parts of St. Louis County. The market would probably include major universities and employment centers, and could provide the first- and last-mile links to public transportation.

Rivers Mack said the demographics in St. Louis and the attractiveness to entrepreneurs would be conducive to bike-sharing.

“Millennials would be all over it, including people moving downtown,” she said. “The culture is shifting.”

She said there has been a three-fold increase in St. Louisans who use bicycles as a mode of transportation in just over a decade.

Trailnet recently compiled a comprehensive report detailing the costs, opportunities, challenges, and advantages of creating a bike share system in the St. Louis area.  The report summarizes the factors that have made bike share work in cities around the U.S.:

  • A dense network of at least 20-30 stations clustered in one section of the metro area
  • Stations situated to be most convenient for trips of a mile or less--the most common length of trip made in existing bike sharing systems
  • Place stations in a contiguous area with many nearby cycling destinations--meaning neighborhoods and districts existing vibrant, dense residential, commercial, and tourist attractions

That has been the recipe that has worked in cities across the U.S.  There is no reason it can't work in St. Louis, too!

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