Smart Cities Insider interviewed Matt Benjamin. Matt is a true forward-thinker and a leader in the bicycle infrastructure planing world. We were talking about challenges and opportunities of bicycle ridership improvement and the future of bike share.
Fehr & Peers was hired by METRO to develop a regional bike share system for Los Angeles county. What are the common challenges developing a bike share system?
Matt Benjamin: The challenges we see, and this is for transportation in general, is space. You have limited amount of space with a lot of uses competing for it. Right now in our cities the automobile takes up a huge amount of space. We have to find strategies to make room for bike share. In some cases it means putting it on a sidewalk, which is competing with pedestrians for space. In other cases it means putting it in the street where car parking space used to be and that of course takes up space for parking.
That balance of looking at public right of way and figuring out what’s the highest and most important use of space—that’s the discussion we always have with all of our projects. It used to be that the automobile always won.
What’s the expectation from the bike share program?
Matt Benjamin: We expect that the bike share program will reduce the automobile demand somewhat. A lot of people can come to Downtown on a train and with the bikes they can get easily to their final destination in Downtown L.A.
We know that bike share program also reduces transit trips. Instead of jumping on a bus to go five blocks north, then switching to another bus to go six blocks east, you can jump on a bike and complete your travel all the way through to your final destination.
Also, a lot of the safety research shows that the more car drivers are exposed to bicyclists the more they know to look out for them and the greater safety there is. This will make cycling safer.
How will data collected from a bike share system benefit the city?
Matt Benjamin: Now we don’t have a lot of good data on exactly how people move through Downtown. We know how many cars there are at a specific location when we do traffic counts, we sometimes know how many bikes and pedestrians there are when we do counts specific for a project. But with the bike share program every trip is being tracked which will help us understand demand and travel patterns. With that and some user surveys, we will also get a sense on how much it is benefiting the city in terms of sustainability, like how many tons of greenhouse gases or how many vehicle miles have been reduced.
In Los Angeles there is the TAP card that allows you to electronically purchase and load Metro passes for easy use of the bus and subway system. Will you also be able to use the bike share system with the TAP card?
Matt Benjamin: We spent a lot of time discussing how to use the TAP Card with bike share. One of the goals of the system was to be able to use your TAP card as a bike share membership card. That was one of the things Metro asked for from different bike share operators and vendors in their proposals. We said we want you to have some way of using the TAP card to access the bikes. That way you only have one card that gets you on buses, subways, bikes and other mobility services.