In 2015, the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District plans to launch a bike share system aimed at improving sustainable mobility throughout the region. The $4 million project will feature 616 bicycles across 88 stations in the cities of Sacramento, West Sacramento, and Davis. It is projected to serve 239,000 trips in its first year of operation.
Bike sharing is growing in popularity across the United States and beyond. About 40 systems are presently in operation in the United States, most notably New York City’s Citibike, Chicago’s Divvy, and Washington D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare. Worldwide, the number of bike share systems has tripled over the past six years to over 600.
Bike sharing fulfills an important niche in the multimodal transportation puzzle. It allows people to check out a bike at one location and return it to another location for a membership fee – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Bike sharing helps reduce the need to drive by facilitating short and intermediate trips and extending the reach of transit.
Most notably, the ubiquity of bike share helps improve safety for all bicyclists via the ‘safety in numbers’ effect. While some may portray bicyclists as a “menacing” fringe group, bike share has the effect of making bicycling mainstream. Bicycling has already increased by 45 percent in Sacramento between 2005 and 2012; bike share will help further the discussion of street safety by increasing awareness of bicycling and bicycle safety issues.
Sacramento’s bike share system will feature annual memberships and short term options. According to the system’s business plan, it is anticipated that annual memberships will cost $65, while a $24 hour membership will cost $7. The first 30 minutes of each trip is free, while trips over $30 minutes cost an additional fee.
Sacramento’s bike share stations will be concentrated most heavily around Downtown and Midtown, two major activity centers. Additional stations will be located across the Sacramento River in West Sacramento, which is undergoing a significant revitalization as a result of a freeway removal and redevelopment of formerly industrial areas. The stations in Davis will be located in both the City and the UC Davis campus (already a very bicycle-friendly area).
2015 may prove a big year for bike sharing across the country. Although bike share expansion stalled in 2014 due to the bankruptcy of Bixi, the largest bicycle manufacturer, it is anticipated that supply-chain issues will be resolved in 2015. Additionally, Alta Bike Share, the nation’s largest bike share operator, was recently purchased by REQX Ventures, a move that is anticipated to inject more capital into bike sharing and reinvigorate expansion plans across the country. Lack of bikes is one factor that has limited the effectiveness of Bay Area Bike Share – it hasn’t yet achieved a critical mass of stations in San Francisco and only serves parts of four cities (Sacramento will actually have more bike share stations, even though its regional population is less than 1/3rd that of the Bay Area).
Bike share is another indication of Sacramento’s ongoing transformation into a more livable and sustainable city. For a region that has experienced considerable sprawl and associated air quality and public health issues, it is encouraging to see investments in light rail, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure, and land use plans that support transit-oriented development. A robust bike share system will help Sacramento take another step in this transformation.