Bike share: Uber for bikes?

Mtshare bike outside WP
Mtshare bike

Bike share is a key way to get more people on bikes. Starting in Lyon, France in 2005, there are now hundreds of schemes around the world. Bikes are left at locations around a city, and users can register to get a code to release a bike and drop it off at another location. In Aotearoa, NextBike has pioneered bike share in Auckland and Christchurch, and NZTA is getting involved.

What about Wellington? With a flat, compact CBD, Wellington seems ideal for bike share, but so far it hasn’t happened. That is until July, when a private startup Mtshare, inspired by bike share schemes in Shanghai, began leaving bikes around the CBD. A smartphone app (for android or iOS) lets you register and get a code for the combination lock on a bike.

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Mtshare app, showing available bikes

Mtshare is a “dockless” bike share scheme – bikes can be left anywhere, not just at a purpose built docking station. This has the advantage that you don’t need to find a free space on a docking station to return a bike, but the disadvantage that bikes can end up in non public places, or in some cases create obstructive heaps of bikes at popular destinations.

How does it work in practice? I fired up the app outside the central library. The map showed the locations of available bikes – none at the central library, but three close by in Cuba St. However two of these were not on the street. A closer look at the map showed that the bikes appeared to be located in apartment buildings – Mtshare say they’re working with customers to persuade them not to appropriate bikes for personal use. The third bike was conveniently parked on a bike rack, but unfortunately the app gave me the wrong code to unlock the bike.

The app showed more bikes down at the railway station – a convenient location, so I headed there and this time the bikes were accessible, and I was able to get the correct code for a lock. The bikes have a small frame and 507mm (24″) wheels, and the seat height is fixed. Most adults would find them uncomfortable to ride for any distance, but at 1.7m I found it OK for a ride along the waterfront, and indeed it felt a bit like rediscovering BMX as a kid. Mtshare has plans for larger bikes, with adjustable seats.

The helmet attached to the bike was a bit small for me. Some people don’t like the idea of using a helmet that other people have used, but to me it seems no different from using the headrests of airplane seats.

The bikes have stands, which means that they can be left anywhere, even if there isn’t a fixed bike stand. There is a bell but no lights. The next batch of bikes will have baskets.

At the moment, there is no charge for using the bikes, and Mtshare would like to continue this, instead supporting the service through advertising. Similar schemes have also been mined for location data.

With more bikes, and better sizing, Mtshare could be a good way for bike-less people to experience the convenience of biking. And with good management we can hopefully avoid the downsides that have appeared in some other places.


see also…

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Eastern cycle routes – it’s not about you

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Is this what you’d like to see on Evans Bay Parade?

WCC is consulting on a raft of proposed cycle routes in the eastern suburbs. There’s not much time left to give feedback about these. If you’re reading this, the chances are you’re pretty comfortable about biking. But the proposed routes are not about you: they’re about attracting new cyclists who may be intimidated by  a stream of cars and buses behind them as they pedal up Crawford Road to get from Kilbirnie to Newtown, for example. If the new routes get people doing more trips by bike, we reduce congestion and carbon emissions, and improve our health, benefiting everyone.

There are 25 different routes proposed, each with a couple of options for implementing them, arrived at by community consultation. While this seems a lot to sift through, there are clear images of the different options, and it’s easy to give online feedback. If you’re time challenged, just give feedback on the routes that are important to you. I’m not going to tell you which options to choose (though in general option A will be a reasonable outcome), but here’s some things to think about as you give feedback.

  • Will the option encourage more trips by bike? There’s no point in implementing the route otherwise.
  • Is it an 8-80 route – in other words, will people from 8 years old to 80 years old be comfortable biking the route? Obviously some proposals (for example Crawford Rd) may not pass this test, but will still be worth doing because overall more people will be encouraged to bike.
  • Protected bike lanes are more likely to encourage new users than bike lanes next to traffic, or sharrows. However on “quiet routes” such as Wilson St in Newtown, and Yule St in Kilbirnie, a high level of protection may not be necessary.
  • In general, one way cycle lanes on each side of the road are preferable since bikes will always be travelling on the correct side of the road. However in some cases, such as Evans Bay, a two way cycle lane on one side of the road will work because the cycle lane crosses few entrances or intersections.
  • Where a bike lane runs by parked cars, is there an adequate buffer zone so people can alight from a car without intruding on the cycle lane? Hint: 0.3m (the length of a shoe) is not enough.
  • Are the driving lane widths safe? In general driving lanes should be about 3m, or over 4m. Lanes 3-4m wide tempt drivers to speed and overtake bikes even though there’s not enough space to do so safely.
  • Could the route be improved by blocking or discouraging through motor traffic? This might be a possibility for Wilson St for example. This could also benefit residents bothered by rat-running commuters.
  • Parking is naturally a concern. However the important thing is that people can find a place to park when they need it. Even if the number of car parks decreases, tools such as time limits, residents parking zones, etc can ensure that parks will always be available to those who need them.
  • It’s preferable that pedestrians aren’t disadvantaged by narrower footpaths.
  • Will the growing numbers of people using eBikes affect the uptake of the route? For example the Crawford Rd route is a bit steep but is a breeze on an eBike.

So have a look at the proposed routes, and give your feedback. Now is a good time, but definitely by 17 September (2 October for Miramar Avenue (Shelly Bay Road to Tauhinu Road). All going well, this time next year we’ll have a bunch of new people biking in the east!

CAW September meeting

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Evans Bay – can we do better than this?

While some of us have headed off to warmer cycling environments, there’ll be a keen group to discuss Wellington cycling issues.

  • CBD-Oriental Parade-Evans Bay-Miramar routes – consultation opens Monday 4 Sept
  • Newtown improvements
  • Hutt Road
  • Island Bay Cycleway – not much news until consultation results etc are made available
  • Cycling issues in the national election
  • Thumbs up/ Thumbs down

Tuesday 5 September 6-7:30pm, Sustainability Trust, Forrester Lane (off Tory St).

Does “taking the lane” hold up cars?

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Taking the lane at an intersection

Should you “take the lane” – ride in the centre of the road lane – or ride on the left hand side of the lane? The Road Code says “you should keep left, but not to the extent that it compromises your safety” for example by riding in the door zone of parked cars. The Code says you should take the lane when approaching a roundabout or intersection, and that it’s acceptable to take the lane when the road is narrow, there are parked cars, or if you’re turning left at an intersection (to avoid being cut off by another vehicle turning left).  But we’re sometimes reluctant to take the lane, because we feel we’re holding up following vehicles.

In fact, taking the lane often doesn’t make any difference. I recently came across a good diagram (from the UK, which is why there’s the odd mixture of metric distances and imperial speeds) that explains why.

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Overtaking Bikes [@lstwhl]
To pass safely, the Road Code says a car needs to be 1.5m to the right of a bike, which is about 0.7m wide. Most cars are about 1.8m wide. So overtaking requires at least 0.7+1.5+1.8=4m of road space. But most urban lanes are less than 4m, so a passing vehicle almost always needs to go into the next lane over, meaning that it doesn’t matter if the bike is at the edge of the road, or taking the lane.

The diagram also makes the point that riding single file doesn’t necessarily make it easier for vehicles to pass a group. But if you are riding in a group, it is polite to be considerate of following drivers.

Taking the lane is a powerful way of ensuring your visibility and safety. As a rule of thumb, if you’re being passed too close, you should take the lane next time you’re on that piece of road.

Does taking the lane hold up cars? Yes, but generally no more than if you rode on the left hand edge, and the delay is usually less than that caused by the queue at the next intersection. And if bikes taking the lane is causing problems for traffic, there’s often a simple solution – put in a cycle lane.

How contrary is contraflow?

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Proposed contraflow lane in Cuba St

When WCC unveiled plans for bike lanes going the opposite way on one-way streets (“contraflow lanes“), there was a collective intake of breath. The first one way street was designated in 1617, but so shocked the London citizenry that it wasn’t until 1800 that the next one was established.  However now we’re so used to one way streets that going the wrong way on a one way street seems unnatural, even for the nimble velocipede.

One way streets are a hassle for bikes. In a car there’s a reasonable payoff for having to go around three sides of a square, but on a bike one way streets add significantly to travel time and reduce safety by increasing the number of intersections to be negotiated. Many cities have used contraflow lanes to increase the permeability of the city for bikes, and encourage bike use. Auckland and Christchurch have introduced contraflow, and I’ve ridden contraflow in cities as different as Cape Town and Tokyo. In France and Belgium, one way streets are by default contraflow for bikes.

There’ll need to be a bit of adjustment – pedestrians stepping out into the street will need to be reminded to look both ways, but the green “bike lane” treatment and arrows should do this.  The contraflow lane in Cuba is next to parked cars, but bike riders and car drivers will be facing each other so the risk will be low.

Ideally contraflow will be introduced on a number of streets at once, so people get used to the concept. As well as Cuba St between Ghuznee and Vivian, contraflow is being planned for Lower Cuba Street between Manners and Wakefield, Bunny Street West, and Willeston Street between Willis and Victoria. It would be good to see contraflow on more one way streets, for example Jessie St, Dixon St, Waring Taylor St and Stout St.

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Possible contraflow lanes in the CBD

Contraflow isn’t a silver bullet by any means – it will help confident cyclists rather than attract novices, and the proposed contraflow lanes are “quick wins” rather than part of a city wide network. But the changes will help people on bikes to traverse the CBD more efficiently and make biking more attractive. If you’d like to see this happen (along with some other quick wins) give WCC your feedback by 11 August. Contraflow is enabled by TR77, TR78, TR80 and TR82; other bike friendly measures are in TR79 (Grey St bike parking), TR81 (Rugby St bike lane) and TR106 (Wakely Rd shared path).

Project Glow Wear hits the runway

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One way to avoid the biker’s blight of SMIDSY (Sorry mate, I didn’t see you) is to wear high visibility or reflective clothing. However some people don’t like to look like road workers when they pedal around town. Project Glow Wear provides stylish options for being visible on a bike.

The Project Glow Wear design competition shows how creative you can be with reflective gear and really stand out from the crowd. Get your tickets to the Runway Show in Wellington (Sat 12 August) as this is the place to be seen!

It’s in the underground area beneath Frank Kitts Park, and kicks off at 7:30pm.

CAW August meeting report

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Island Bay Option C – submissions due 13 August

Lots in the pipeline, and if you want to make it happen, there are plenty of things you can give feedback to Council on.

Ron reported back on the regular meeting he and Linda had with WCC Cycling Team. There will be quite a few projects to submit on, as the UCP projects gather pace. Eleanor doing a register of submissions. There are proposals for a shared footpath route to connect Kent Terrace to the Waterfront. This would have to be done without inconveniencing pedestrians. Hutt Rd shared path issues were discussed, including the illegal car parks (Sarah Free and Chris Calvi-Freeman are following up on this), lack of safety measures at business exits, and the narrow gap between posts on the shared path. Options for access to Bunny St West are being investigated. Traffic lights at Brooklyn Rd/Ohiro Rd may improve safety for cyclists at this intersection. Western routes, e.g. to Karori, may be in the next tranche of cycling projects.

Newtown cycling projects: engagement has started on possible cycling connections through Newtown/Berhampore. The Bike Newtown group has been promoting to cycle commuters with Pit Stops at Basin Reserve and John/Adelaide intersection. At this stage it may be better for CAW to promote awareness, rather specific solutions.

Bike Sydney has been in touch – their advice is to talk about space, not design. Relevant to Thorndon Quay, where it’s important to create a space that will be attractive to traffic and people patronising businesses.

We discussed the Island Bay consultation. Councillor Diane Calvert (responsible for Community Planning and Engagement) and WCC staff helped explain the four options, which all include making the cycleway more direct, and extending it through the business area. The decision is about quality of feedback, not quantity, and shouldn’t be construed as a “vote”. Other options are not being considered, since the four options are the result of a thorough engagement process which all stakeholders could participate in. The aim should be an “8-80” cycleway, that can be used confidently by people between 8 and 80 years of age. Please read the Council’s material, including the FAQ. James has provided the 30 second summary on the CAW website. Please submit by 13 August.

CBD “quick win” improvements. We discussed these small projects, which will make it easier to get around the CBD by bike. The proposals include contraflow lanes, which are common in other cities, and have been used in Christchurch and Auckland. Risk analysis may show that contraflow lanes improve safety – for example in Cuba St, drivers of parking cars will be facing towards people on bikes. Submit feedback by 11 August.

Shelly Bay development. We discussed the cycling implications of this development, which over a 13 year period will see a four fold increase in motor traffic on one of Wellington’s best recreational cycling routes. The Miramar Ciclovia has attracted thousands to the peninsula. Have your say by 14 August.

Asia-Pacific Cycling Conference is being held in Christchurch 17-20 October.

Shelly Bay – what will it mean for cycling on the Miramar Peninsula?

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What will it be like sharing this road with 4700 vehicles a day, and construction traffic?

People like biking and walking around the Miramar Peninsula – it’s part of the Great Harbour Way/ Te Aranui o Pōneke, and when part of the road has been closed to motor traffic for a Ciclovia, thousands of Wellingtonians of all ages have cycled, walked, and skateboarded around the peninsula.

WCC is planning changes for the Peninsula. In conjunction with Shelly Bay Ltd, the Council intends to create a residential and business development at Shelly Bay, with a hotel and 350 homes. What are the implications for cycling?

There’ll be public space such as a “village green”, with a walkway/cycleway through Shelly Bay. However this doesn’t appear to be continuous. At the bend by Shed 8, there is a pinch point where it looks like cyclists and walkers will have to join the road.

ShellyBay

Between Shelly Bay and Miramar cutting, there’ll be relatively little change. A “collector road” like this should be 14m wide with an 8m berm. But it’s hard to widen the road, so there’ll be two 3m vehicle lanes, with a 1.5m footpath. People biking will share the vehicle lanes. The traffic is expected to go from 1200 vehicles/day to 4700 vehicles/day. This would make the road similar to SH58 on the south side of Pauatahanui Inlet (9200 vehicles/day). Most people no longer find this a pleasant cycling route. For the 13 years of development at Shelly Bay, there will be significant construction traffic.

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Proposed road between Miramar Cutting and Shelly Bay: cyclists will use the vehicle lanes

WCC is committed to reducing the climate change impact of transport, so a new development like this should minimise the use of private cars, emphasising public transport. However there are no plans for public transport, other than the possibility of a ferry service (which GWRC is not proposing to fund). The wharves are likely to be demolished, and there are no specific provisions for replacement. The development encourages residents to use cars, contributing to fossil fuel emissions, and congestion on the route from the eastern suburbs to the CBD.

What are the alternatives? One is to develop the Miramar Peninsula as a recreational area, which aligns with WCC’s intention when it bought Shelly Bay land from the Defence Department in 2000 (before then, access was restricted, and picnicking families were ordered off the beach by Air Force staff). This is the vision of the Miramar Business Improvement District (BID) group, who have produced a video [small, medium, large].

Another option is to create a car free suburb, with limited parking and car access, but a frequent shuttle to Miramar to connect with public transport, or to pick up a car from a parking building. The road could be reconfigured to prioritise pedestrians and walkers, perhaps by using the “two minus one” layout common in Europe, where motor vehicles negotiate the use of a single central lane, with bike lanes on either side.

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Two minus one road layout

Over the time of the development, it’s likely that autonomous vehicle technology will have developed for shuttles, and a new generation will prefer shared use vehicles rather than car ownership. Parents will be glad to live in a suburb where children can roam without fear of cars, and active transport will be a real possibility.

Read the material on the WCC website, go to the open day (Sunday 30 July, 11am–3pm, Shelly Bay), and above all get your views in by 14 August.

Other sites:

Cycleways “support local”

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Lee, A. 2008. What is the economic contribution of cyclists compared to car drivers in inner suburban Melbourne’s shopping strips?

A recent news story features business owners concerned about the impact of the proposed southern cycleway – particularly the loss of parking.

Should they be worried? As it happens, a lot of research has been done into the effects of cycleways on business. The conclusion is that cycleways have little or no impact on local business, and may have a positive impact.

A Los Angeles study found no difference in retail spending between an area with bike lanes, and an identical area without. Salt Lake City found that a street with cycle lanes had an almost 9% increase in retail activity, compared with a 7% increase city wide. In Seattle, sales increased dramatically after a hotly contested bike lane was put in.

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Jump in sales after a bike lane was constructed and parking removed, compared with unchanged areas (Rowe, K. 2013 Measuring the Economic Impact of Bicycle Facilities on Neighborhood Business Districts)

People shop differently by bike. On a bike you may buy less than if you’re in a car, but you’ll shop more often, partly because it’s so easy to stop on a bike.

A Portland study found that “bicyclists, transit users, and pedestrians …for all businesses except supermarkets, spend more, on average than those who drive”. A Toronto study showed that most cyclists spent over $100 a month, while most car drivers spent under $100 a month. In Melbourne, the hourly spend from a car park was $27; if the same space was allocated to bike parking, it would generate $97 an hour.

But, you cry, these are Overseas Studies, not applicable to Aotearoa! Well, despite the little known clause in the Tiriti requiring waka space outside every marae, there are NZ studies that support the view that cycleways are good for business. An NZTA study concluded that “cyclists contribute a higher economic spend proportionately to the modal share and are important to the economic viability of local shopping areas” and “that retailers generally overestimate the importance of on-street parking outside shop”. A study of our very own Tory Street showed that removal of car parks would have little impact on business: the on street parks constituted only 2.5% of the available parks in the area, and only 6% of shoppers used the on street parks.

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Where would you want to shop by bike? Where would you want to shop by car?

It makes sense that cycleways encourage people to shop locally. If you’re in a car, you’ll head across town to a big box retailer, with a couple of hectares of parking. If you’re on a bike, you’ll shop nearby, particularly if there’s a comfortable cycling route and convenient bike parking. Certainly, some businesses are dependent on car parking. If I’m going to Placemakers to pick up a load of timber for a construction project, I’ll take the station wagon. But Placemakers provide parking for their customers, rather than relying on ratepayer subsidised parking on the street.

The motto of Natty Art Studio, one of the Adelaide Road businesses featured in the story about the cycleway, is “Shop small, support local”. The good news is that the southern cycleway will achieve both of those objectives.

[Note: Natty Art Studio state on Facebook that the Dominion Post article misrepresents their views: “would love to see more cycleway improvements but they need to slow down the traffic so that bikes and pedestrians can be safe”]

Want better cycling in Newtown?

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While some of us are staying up late watching the Tour de France, the Southern Suburbs are getting ready for a Grand Départ in the race to provide better biking options. Newtown Resident Patrick Morgan writes:

“The City Council has plans for connecting Berhampore and Newtown to the CBD. We need to work together to get a great result. Let’s get together on Saturday 15 July 2-3:30pm at Baobab Wellington 152 Riddiford St for an informal meet up.
We’ll need to speak up for cycling routes that are convenient, comfortable and connected, or we risk getting pushed onto indirect or hilly routes.
A Council citizens’ panel had a look at route options in 2014 and made some recommendations. Can we do even better? From the WCC website:
‘Routes will connect the southern suburbs with local centres, schools and the central city. The current route runs through the southern suburbs from Shorland Park in Island Bay. The second section of the cycleway will run from Wakefield Park in Berhampore to John Street in Newtown.’ Have a look at WCC’s initial options.

You can also join the conversation on FaceBook  and on Twitter at #BikeNewtown