kermit

Charlotte Bike Sharing

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Just back from my first ride and thought it was pretty cool. A couple of random observations from an infrequent bike rider:

1) Strangely the machine was unable to read the membership card they sent me in the mail. It did work when I used the credit card I used for signup. Have others had this problem? If it only reads credit cards as a matter of policy that will make it tough for the under 18 crowd to ride. EDIT: Never mind, I just saw that you must be 18 to join.

2) Other than the heavy basket on front (which caused the steering to have more momentum than I am used to) the bikes are great. The three speeds provide a decent range. Everything worked well

3) I checked out from East blvd station (the station was full when I got my bike) and had planned to return the bike at Bland station. Unfortunately Bland was full. When I got back to East blvd the slot I had vacated was still open but that was the only space available. I hope the Southend stations are not always so full, I will be less likely to get a bike if I am worried about being able to return it at the limited number of stations which are close to home. (the machine at Bland street did provide an extra 15 minutes to me and told me where the nearest empty station was).

4) The system is great and it will change the way I get around town. However its utility is (obiviously) limited by the limited number of stations which exist outside of downtown (clearly I have the natural geographic biases of a Dilworth resident). As an example, a 'middle Dilworth' station (around the Teeter) would allow for tons more use and fill the slightly too far to walk gap between Freedom Park and East / West. I do recognize that this sounds kinda whiny, but it appears (to me) that if the system is ever able to add stations ridership could grow rapidly.

Overall I am very glad bikeshare has arrived, I hope to use it frequently.

Edited by kermit

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Just back from my first ride and thought it was pretty cool. A couple of random observations from an infrequent bike rider:

1) Strangely the machine was unable to read the membership card they sent me in the mail. It did work when I used the credit card I used for signup. Have others had this problem? If it only reads credit cards as a matter of policy that will make it tough for the under 18 crowd to ride. EDIT: Never mind, I just saw that you must be 18 to join.

2) Other than the heavy basket on front (which caused the steering to have more momentum than I am used to) the bikes are great. The three speeds provide a decent range. Everything worked well

3) I checked out from East blvd station (the station was full when I got my bike) and had planned to return the bike at Bland station. Unfortunately Bland was full. When I got back to East blvd the slot I had vacated was still open but that was the only space available. I hope the Southend stations are not always so full, I will be less likely to get a bike if I am worried about being able to return it at the limited number of stations which are close to home. (the machine at Bland street did provide an extra 15 minutes to me and told me where the nearest empty station was).

4) The system is great and it will change the way I get around town. However its utility is (obiviously) limited by the limited number of stations which exist outside of downtown (clearly I have the natural geographic biases of a Dilworth resident). As an example, a 'middle Dilworth' station (around the Teeter) would allow for tons more use and fill the slightly too far to walk gap between Freedom Park and East / West. I do recognize that this sounds kinda whiny, but it appears (to me) that if the system is ever able to add stations ridership could grow rapidly.

Overall I am very glad bikeshare has arrived, I hope to use it frequently.

I just recently joined as well. Love it. The card however does not work at the machine, you actually scan at the individual bike slot. This makes it much more convenient. Just push the silver button on the slot then scan the card. It should release the bike!

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I just recently joined as well. Love it. The card however does not work at the machine, you actually scan at the individual bike slot. This makes it much more convenient. Just push the silver button on the slot then scan the card. It should release the bike!

ahhh. Thanks for the pointer!

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^ yup. Day passes (and hour trips) don't make much sense.

The only cost effective use is to travel to another station and return the bike while you do your non-biking business. Then get another when you are ready.

Use will explode as more stations are added, until then it will be a nice amenity for a few locals and tourists.

Edited by kermit

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Do I have this right?

I buy a Day pass, $8

I keep it out for a little over an hour. That's... another $8?

pretty sure that'd be another $4. The first half hour is free.

Never mind, you said a little over an hour Yes that'd be an extra $8.

Edited by rworkman09

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I go by the East/West bike station daily and have noticed empty spots more frequently the last few days (weekdays), but it's still typically one or two bikes at a time.

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^ yup. Day passes (and hour trips) don't make much sense.

The only cost effective use is to travel to another station and return the bike while you do your non-biking business. Then get another when you are ready.

Use will explode as more stations are added, until then it will be a nice amenity for a few locals and tourists.

Does this really appeal to tourists? This pricing model seems to promote "destination biking" where you need to grab a bike and hurry straight to your destination so that you are not punished (financially). To me this seems like the antithesis of a "leisurely stroll" approach for exploring a city as a tourist.

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^^Empty spaces are needed, so that someone arriving at a bike station may then return a bike near their destination. Yesterday, I noticed the CPCC station (Elizabeth/Kings) was completely full. Earlier in the week, I noticed the 4th/College station (Charlotte Plaza) was completely full. Granted, you can swipe your card for an additional 15 minutes and return the bike to another nearby station with slots open. Still, I hope the balancing of stations is happening regularly, so that we don't turn off users in this crucial honeymoon period.

Edited by southslider

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Does this really appeal to tourists? This pricing model seems to promote "destination biking" where you need to grab a bike and hurry straight to your destination so that you are not punished (financially). To me this seems like the antithesis of a "leisurely stroll" approach for exploring a city as a tourist.

There are few stations that would take more than 30 minutes of travel for even a leisurely ride. The very farthest scenario is from JCSU to Freedom Park, but that's likely to be as common as someone riding the entire Blue Line from 485 to UNCC.

The most likely scenario for recreational use is along the Greenway and Freedom Park. Even then, the ride would only take mayber an hour, for which use would still be priced competitvely with bike rentals.

Point being, it's not a bike rental system, but a bike share system. However, tourists can use the system for bike rental, if they don't mind then paying rates closer to a rental system.

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Why not extend the grace period to 1 hour rather than 30 minutes? I think it would really open the system up if they embraced the 'leisure riders' more. After all, the bikes themselves are the definition of a leisure style bike.

Anyway, when I've been out riding my own bike the last two weeks I've seen a LOT of these around Freedom Park, on the greenway, East Blvd, even out away from any nearby stations around Pecan & Commonwealth (which really needs a station). I've passed by stations and heard people walking by and proudly spouting off info about the program to their friends. The buzz is very positive, I just think the pricing is a little out of whack.

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I rode the B-cycle yesterday for 90 minutes. Just stop at a station every 30 minutes, and drop off and take back out the same bike. No big deal.

They definitely do need a station on West Morehead/Freedom area in Wesley Heights and one near Central/Pecan or Plaza. The big deal is when you want to big to those areas and stop for lunch, you can't unless there is a station nearby.

The smartphone b-cycle app has a 'Vote for Location' button, so I say all of us should keep voting for one when we are in Midwood and Wesley Heights and eventually they will get the message. It is absurd that they left out Midwood, as that is often my own bike destination, and it would be great to do the bike share there and not have to worry about locking and retreiving my own bike, especially if plans change.

I did find that the 3 gears which were slow to change made the ride difficult in hilly areas, but my ride in Dilworth and the greenways was good overall.

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I think we should also take into consideration that, outside of the last couple days, it has been one of the hottest summers on record. I've been very pleased to see people out and riding considering this. Think about it, those that are typically willing to bike in this weather usually already own one. Wait until fall and more pleasant weather and I think you'll see the proles start pouring out of the woodwork to check out the new bike system.

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by contrast, I was biking (my own bike) past Gateway today and more than half the slots were empty at the station there, and later saw a cpl of the bikes going down mint street. would definitely be interested to see usage statistics for the system.

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Does this really appeal to tourists? This pricing model seems to promote "destination biking" where you need to grab a bike and hurry straight to your destination so that you are not punished (financially). To me this seems like the antithesis of a "leisurely stroll" approach for exploring a city as a tourist.

I'm going to Boston in September, and I've already planned my trip almost exclusively around "The Hubway" can't wait to use their bikes!

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For what its worth I was in Chicago today and noticed they have the same bike share vendor.

Tourists had checked out all the bikes from the grant park station I saw. Their rates also seem more reasonable than ours: first -hour- is free and each additional half hour is $5. There is also a $45 maximum. Annual membership was $75

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^It's the same pricing structure as here, but Chicago is actually a bit more expensive. "First Half Hour Free" is very misleading (to the point of being lawsuit-worthy, in my opinion). It should be "First half hour INCLUDED" in the daily fee. The additional half hour in CLT is $4, which is an incentive to basically return the bike to a station within a half hour and not ride around with all day. Our daily max is $75, the annual membership is $65.

(it looks like chicago doesn't do a full day pass - $8 here - but does an hourly system that's much more expensive, starting at $10 for the first hour)

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I think this pricing is subject to lots of interpretation. I had glanced at Chicagos similar annual fee and saw the included hour (rather than half hour for Charlotte) and thought it would be cheaper for the type of riding I would do if I were a resident.

I did glace at other bike share location pricing and it does appear that Charlotte is at the top end of the additional half hour rate scale.

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We only have 200 bikes in our system. An hour limit might end up limiting our capacity of available bikes. Maybe in the long run it can be revisited with more bikes and economy of scale and sponsorship dollars.

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Took two trips on bcycle this weekend. Both started at East/West. On Saturday I went down to Trader Joes in Midtown and it was a really pleasant trip through Dilworth and down the greenway. The second trip was down to New Bern and Tripple C Brewery. On both trips I found more than half empty stations and bikes that already kinda ragged out (docks kinda balky when checking in, shifters not working, keys stuck in locks, bells wonky, etc.). Both these things indicated that the bikes are getting lots of use, despite the small problems everything is still usable. I had thought there was a way to report maintance issues at the station but I could not find it today.

I also noticed two folks who apperaed to use the bikes to ride from the Blue Line to the East Blvd Teeter and back.

Edited by kermit

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How do you think a bikeshare location would do at the Mint Museum in the Eastover neighborhood? Would allow people to visit the museum on the bikes and also allow people who live around the Mint to ride bikes to work. Would also allow for people to ride the streetcar once complete to Elizabeth and Hawthorne and then ride to the Museum from the bikeshare locations on Elizabeth. I think it might be a cool way to connect the Mint to downtown.

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I live across the street from that Mint. If there was a station there, I'd pay the $65 to utilize the system. This needs to happen.

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I think we need to figure out the capital cost of a new station and the requsite bikes needed.

Anyone got a guess?

EDIT: OK an quick google found this reference about Washington Bike Share: (from wikipedia, the source for it is now 404)

In May 2011, it cost $41,500 to install a station with six docks and $49,300 each for larger stations with 14 docks. Each bicycle cost about $1,000, and the annual operating cost per bike was $1,860.

Yikes! That is way more expensive than I had imagined. At $50k per 6 bike station (with bikes included) that would require nearly 800 new annual memberships (or 200 per year amortized over 4 (?) years) just to cover capital costs.

Edited by kermit

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I think a bike share station would see more use at 7th/Pecan/Caswell in Elizabeth than at the Mint in Eastover.

I also saw B-Cycle bikes in Plaza-Midwood this weekend for the Common Grounds street fest on Thomas. It certainly proves that Plaza-Central is an easy ride from Uptown/Midtown. But since the B-Cycle planners overlooked both PM and Elizabeth for stations, I just hope the users didn't pay too much over their half-hour included.

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