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Detroit Bike Share study wants your input

DETROIT—Bikeshare programs worldwide have attracted attention for their success, ability to stimulate foot traffic, and move people in a healthy and efficient manner.

A bike share system consists of a network of bicycles distributed around an area that provide transportation for short, one-way trips from one location to another. Riders can purchase varying membership packages, check out a bike, ride to their destination, and return the bike to any other kiosk within the system.

8426575353_f9bef5e60dIn the spring of 2013 the "greater downtown" area of Detroit will learn whether the area is suitable for a multi-neighborhood bike share system.

Lisa Nuszkowski, a senior project administer at Wayne State University, says the study looks very promising.

The feasibility study, being performed by California-based Alta Planning + Design in partnership with livingLAB Detroit, will determine and recommend everything, from which locations the bike share kiosks will occupy, to how many bikes and how much it might all cost.

A total of 21 organizations chipped in to either help fund or support the study.

Neighborhoods under consideration stretch from Riverfront to North End, and from Mexicantown to Lafayette Park. Study teams are currently seeking public comments and suggestions for the bike share system, including where residents would like to see bike-share locations.

You can offer your ideas for the next three weeks on their website at Detroit Bicycle Share, or visit one of the public input maps located at one of the following locations:

  • D:hive in downtown (1253 Woodward)
  • Detroit Public Library Main Branch (5201 Woodward)
  • Bowen Brank (3648 W. Vernor)
  • Elmwood Branch (550 Chene)

Transportation Equity

Nuszkowksi says bike-share sites would likely be determined by the concentration of amenities and retail. The study will also determine how to build the system to maximize user convenience, equity and accessibility.

Critics of the study say the area of the bike share system indicates less altruistic motives for developing the system.

"It can be more community oriented, but generally when things like [this] take off it's because there's a profit to be made," says Sarah Sidelko, co-founder of Detroit-based Fender Bender. She said these types of studies try their best to use "trigger words" like "community and inclusion" so it has greater appeal to more people.

"This is in a really centralized area where people typically have a lot more access than other areas [to] the city's tranportation," she says. "It's pretty obviously an exclusive thing just to begin with. To make it inclusive in a place that's already being exclusive is kind of an oxymoron."

Nuszkowski says, however, the greater downtown area was selected because of its density and mixture of land uses that are complimentary to a bike share program, and the system has the potential to expand throughout the city and region. She also said some suburban communities have already expressed interest in partnerships and learning more as well.

How users will pay for the system, which can correlate to a system's accessibility, is also undetermined at the moment, but varying membership packages are likely to be included.

What's next?

If the system turns out to be feasible, Detroit could turn into one of the many of 30 U.S. cities that have introduced bike share programs and reaped their benefits.

Nuszkowski says once the study is completed in April they'll develop education and promotion campaigns, and search for sponsors and a management entity for the system — WSU said they have no interest in maintaining its day-to-day operation once it is established. She says they would like to find local organizations to run the system and provide system maintenance. It will likely be a non-profit.

"We hope that having something like bikeshare isn't only a transportation option but an amenity that adds to the quality of life where you are — being able to get on a bike and go somewhere and do it in a healthy way and in a way where you can explore the city a little more." - Lisa Nuszkowski

The total capital investment and long-term operating costs are still being studied and will depend on the scale of the of the bike share system. Nuszkowski says a variety of sponsorship options are viable and necessary because user fees alone don't cover the operation costs. She says WSU is also looking into federal and philanthropic transportation grants.

"We hope that having something like bikeshare isn't only a transportation option but an amenity that adds to the quality of life where you are — being able to get on a bike and go somewhere and do it in a healthy way and in a way where you can explore the city a little more," Nuszkowski says. "It sends a message about what this place is: Am I welcome here? Do I feel safe here, are there things to do here? It just contributes to the allure of the place."

Stay tuned for updates.

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