Bike-share — Forget whatever you thought you knew about recreational biking…

It’s going to be interesting to see how it goes — the Limebike deployment in my Central New Jersey town of Metuchen, New Jersey… As always, new forms of transit introduce… challenges — both educational and logistical.

I lost my bike a few months ago. Well, it was stolen. My fault, it wasn’t locked properly. But I heard soon after that Limebike dockless bike-sharing was coming to my town so I decided to not buy a new bike and instead use the new hourly rentals on Limebike when they became available.

During the few months after — i.e., Summer of 2018 — some significant changes happened in my town. One was the installation of “sharrows” on one of the main streets through town — shared lane markers. We have a pretty active social media community on Facebook so within a few days there was a lot of discussion about the sharrows.

Some people were simply confused about what “sharrows” meant. It seemed like a fair number of people thought they were just a Metuchen thing, not realizing that shared lane markers are a standard way of building bike-friendly and pedestrian-friendly towns around the United States as well as around the world.

(For what it’s worth, I had no idea they were called “sharrows” until they came to Metuchen, but I’ve been used to seeing them in bikable communities for years.)

Others raised concerns about safety, shared road usage, mis-placed priorities, etc… Aaargh… Sharrows would help with all these concerns…

Then some bike lane improvements were installed. Again, the non-bike community seemed to misunderstand either the original problem, or the improvement, or why any of this matters.

Aaargh…

People are going to bike. Why not make biking better, and encourage more of it?

We live in a totally awesome community. It’s a community where lots of people could enjoy the fabulously wonderful chance to bike, but many don’t, for various reasons. That could change. More could bike. Much more…

It’s a community where people care.

But I’ve realized that there’s a big and unfortunate divide between what people think about recreational bike riding (i.e., the stuff they grew up with, starting with training-wheels) vs. “biking as a form of transit” (i.e., the stuff that bike-share programs aim to solve).

The thing is — they are totally different beasts. Recreational biking has very little to do with biking as transit.

How so?

In recreational biking, you buy a bike, wait for weather that you think is favorable, think of a place you want to go or a route you want to ride, maybe gear-up and gather the family or a buddy to join you, and then off you go!

In biking as transit, you have a need to get someplace. And your bike is what you’ve got.

You might also have other options, but you might not. You’ve got a bike. Or need a bike.

Maybe the place you need to get isn’t on a bus or train route.

Maybe it’s just a little too far to walk but not far enough that you want to drive.

Maybe you need a quicker way to get to the train station instead of walking. Neighborhood dogs chase you when you walk… :-)

Maybe you want to do some shopping and could really use a handy bicycle basket to help carry your stuff home. Limebike has a nifty basket! (CitiBike does not…)

Maybe your wife snagged the car for the weekend (aHEM!) and you want to bike over to the mall to see the latest action flick… :-)

Maybe it’s the middle of winter or during a rain storm and you have to get to the dentist, and — yeah — you could call an Uber (wife took the car, remember…) and — yeah — maybe you could walk, but biking there would just be better (you don’t like taxis?) — less time in the cold weather, less slogging through the rain puddles. You want to bike. You gotta bike. Bike.

(And yup — biking in the rain is going to be pretty wet — but remember, we’re talking about something different from what you may be used to. Folks who regularly use bikes as a form of transit don’t necessarily see biking in the rain as a problem — no more of a problem than driving a car in the rain, for example. In fact, biking in the rain can be exhilarating — if you’ve got the right bike for the job!)

And then there’s a variation on all of this — maybe you have other options for getting wherever you are going, but you just want to get some exercise. Yeah, you could walk, but biking is a different type of exercise — walking doesn’t always… stretch those muscles in the same way. Biking can be a little more aerobic, get the blood flowing a bit more. And practice your balancing skills! :-)

Anyway, you’ve gotta go, you’ve gotta find a way to go, and hell-yeah having a conveniently available bike to rent for the trip is gonna be either appreciated or helpful or both!

It’s just not recreational biking. Totally different.

Biking as transit isn’t really optional. It’s not easily replaced. It creates opportunities to do things / go places that didn’t exist before.

Biking as transit also makes neighborhoods safer, calms traffic, and causes cute puppy dogs to fall from the sky! I can prove these things.

Okay, I exaggerate, a little. But biking as transit really is groovy. And will change the way you live and travel, if you explore its opportunities. If you embrace it. The way you already embrace trains, cars, buses, and taxis.

And it really has nothing to do with what you grew up with. The “riding to the park” stuff. Which you can also do on a rented bike, by the way, but it’s just a different thing.

Dockless bike-share. We’re living in groovy times… In Metuchen, New Jersey. :-)