One particular aspect of bike sharing is illustrative of why it is successful and how it can point the way towards a greener future: parking. Car parking, in particular “free” car parking, has recently come under scrutiny from urban planners as one of the primary drivers (ahem, pun intended) of traffic, auto-oriented development, pollution, the degradation of the urban fabric, and the high cost of housing, among other sustainability challenges. Providing bike share parking can turn these challenges upside down.
As this paper shows, the cost of a car parking space is around $16,000 while the cost of a bike parking space is $78. Also, as part of Arlington County’s Master Transportation Plan, efficiently using curb space (a limited public resource) is one tool in providing transportation choices. Even with the new bike share stations in Arlington County replacing some car parking spots, nearly all of the public curb space is still devoted to cars. In these economic times, with cities needing to save money and maximize the efficiency of limited public resources, bike share parking seems like a no-brainer.
Bike sharing also contributes to the vitality of communities as it enables neighborhood and commercial centers to be enjoyed and populated by more people, not automobiles. In creating places where people want to live, work and play, people beget more people, business begets more business. Bike sharing is one tool to creating a vibrant, sustainable place.