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Rochester is ready for a bike share program. That’s according to a study led by the Genesee Transportation Council.

You can read the report here.

A bike share allows users to rent bicycles by the day or through subscription services. A user could “check out” a bicycle at one station and return it to another station.

The study found a bike share would be feasible in the city and some inner ring suburbs. The villages of Brockport, Pittsford, Fairport and East Rochester could support a bike share, as well as some parts of Greece, Brighton and Canandaigua.

The planners envision a four-phase implementation in the city, with 25 stations with a total of 250 bikes per phase. In a full build-out, there would be 1,000 bikes in the system. It would cost $8 a day or $85 a year.

Here’s the bad news. Over five years, it would cost $2.5 to $5 million to get a bike share up and running, and another $3.3 million in operating costs. However, the study notes, “This amount is less than two transit buses or one quarter of the cost of constructing a mile of new four lane urban highway.”

Funding could come from government, philanthropic and sponsorship sources. Revenue from riders doesn’t even cover half of the cost.


Here are some things that could make a bike share successful in Rochester, per the study

  • High population density in the city
  • Lots of young people in the city
  • Areas of the city that could use improved access to jobs and services.
  • Potential sponsorship opportunities.
  • Lots of college students and supportive administrations.
  • Downtown revitalization
  • Bus stops throughout the city

Here are some things that could sink a bike share in Rochester, per the study:

  • Few destinations for visitors downtown
  • Lack of a complete network of bicycle infrastructure
  • Small, but growing, bicycle culture.
  • Some streets are not bicycle-friendly.

Here’s why Rochester should jump on board a bike share, per the study:

  • Introduce new riders to the benefits of bicycling.
  • Improve physical and mental health and reduce health care costs.
  • Promote the city to potential employers, residents, and visitors.
  • Retain and attract workers and companies.
  • Give visitors a new way to experience city.
  • Bike riders spend money at nearby businesses.
  • Expand and enhance existing transit services.
  • Reduce dependence on automobile transportation.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Reduce household transportation expenditure.

The bike share study said safety is generally not a valid concern, because the more bike riders that are on the road, the more drivers adapt to them. “Although the safety risks are real and should be considered and mitigated for a system in Rochester, none of these fears have proven to be a large factor once a system is up and running in a city. Bike shares have strong safety record in the communities after introduction.”

At first, I had sticker shock when I saw the price tag. But after reading through the study, the cost becomes a little more reasonable, especially when you consider what we spend on other modes of transportation. (No, your driver user fees and gas taxes do not cover the cost of roads. Also, bike riders are taxpayers, too.) I still think this could be a tough sell.


Links of the Day:


– Senator Schumer uses his morning workouts to schmooze Republicans. (Why are there no women in this story?)

– States are raising their speed limits when they should do the opposite.

– Kraft bowed to pressure from a food blogger with no scientific background who makes bogus claims.


Tweets of the Day:



21 Responses to Bike Share: Study Says Yes

  1. April 21, 2015 at 9:31 pm rochester_veteran responds:

    I first saw bike sharing when visiting Amsterdam back in the late 1970s. The bikes back then were the big, clunky, balloon tired bikes, fenders and all, painted all in white. They were borrowed and left, not even rented. Would people be honest enough to do that here in Rochester without all the bikes disappearing? Who knows…

    BTW, Rachel, $2.5 to $5 million is a lot of money to get the program going and let’s not forget, funding from the government is coming from we taxpayers, not some anonymous sugar daddy with bottomless pockets. As far as I’m concerned, let the bike enthusiast community put their money where their mouths are concerning bike sharing. If they really want it, they can fund it.

  2. Bike share seems like a reasonable program. I just don’t understand the cost? If you purchased 200 bikes at $500 each, the cost is $100K. Purchase 50 bike racks / stations at $500 each equals $25K. Would you need to hire a few people to oversee the program or do you simply use existing city workers? OK, hire two people. Yearly cost is $100K. Where does it add up to 5 million?????

    • April 22, 2015 at 9:52 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      These aren’t just any bikes. This is a system with technology to dock the bikes and make sure they don’t get stolen. Docking stations are not cheap.

  3. Just like you don’t keep charging things on your credit card that you can’t pay for, neither should the City.
    Let’s assume the City has a balanced budget.
    What line item should be cut to pay for the shortfall?

    • April 22, 2015 at 10:18 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

      Study didn’t identify ownership model.

      • I don’t understand your reply.
        Do you mean that the City wouldn’t be running it?

        • April 22, 2015 at 11:13 am Rachel Barnhart responds:

          Correct – we don’t know.

        • April 22, 2015 at 11:16 am Nicholas responds:

          Theoretically the project could be funded using any combination of local, state, and federal funds, as well as through public benefit corporations such as RGRTA, and public bond sales. To further reduce risk and burden to the project stakeholders the program could be contracted as a Public-Private Project (P3) in which financing for construction and operation could be procured through the private sector. This is just theory because as Rachel pointed out the study doesn’t identify an ownership model at this point since financing was outside of the scope of the study. I just wanted to illustrate some of the many options available to fund this project. Personally I’m all for it since the study clearly identifies a market for this program, and costs which are in line with other successful bike share programs.

          • OK. Let’s talk reality.
            For those reading this blog, who would invest their own money into this and if so, how much? It can be as little or as much as you want, but let’s see you is really willing to back it.

          • that should be “Let’s see who is willing to back it”

  4. April 22, 2015 at 10:45 am Gary Van Son responds:

    Anyone who lives in the city knows we already have a bike sharing program. It is also known as petty larceny. We do not “own” our bikes, they are merely used on a temporary basis until someone else decides to use it. No police are involved because the former user obtained the bike in less than legal ways. Any new program of bike use would have to successfully deal with this cultural issue and good luck with that!

    • Thanks for the chuckle from reading your first sentence.
      Yes, I guess that means I’ve participated in the bike share program, albeit involuntarily.

      • April 22, 2015 at 11:07 am rochester_veteran responds:

        Yes, I participated in the “involuntary” bike sharing program when I was a kid. My bike stolen right off the back porch of our house when my family lived in the Northside. Then, years later, in the 19th Ward, my then 6 year old son was knocked off his bike, beaten and the punk stole his bike. My wife saw it all come down, but couldn’t stop it, but jumped in the car and took off after the punk, confronted him and rightfully “re-shared” my sons bike, put it in the car and brought it home. The punk was probably 8 or 9 years old, already on his way to a life of crime.

  5. I’m a young professional who just moved to New York City where the Citi Bike program is in place. To my knowledge, the bike share is still running in the red despite the high population density and about 100k annual members. Among the problems I’ve heard, the rebalancing of bikes (natural traffic pattern is probably not symmetrical) seemed to be overlooked the most and is a substantial cost center now, one that may not be factored into existing considerations above. Further, the fact that losses widen into year 5 suggests that it may not even be a scalable, sustainable system; at what point are third parties funds no longer necessary?

    Just a few things I thought of while reading the article. The Citi Bike program wad recently audited and could provide useful information. Best of luck, hope to be able to bike to Park Ave in the future.

  6. April 23, 2015 at 7:52 am Animule responds:

    What is it with Rochester and studies? A major study that preceded the idiotic Fast Ferry said that 1 million people would ride the ferry each year. The real numbers were something like one-tenth that figure. I’m not buying the ridership numbers here either, especially in a city that has bike conducive weather conditions for only 5 to 6 months per year with rides priced 8x the cost of a bus ticket. The other ominous sign here is this sentence: “revenue from riders doesn’t even cover half of the cost.” Mind you, this is with the overly optimistic, pie in the sky usage numbers from the study, so the real world experience could be taxpayers covering 3/4 or more of the true cost of this endeavor (how much are they budgeting for stolen and/or broken bikes?). We’re talking about establishing a service like this in a city that can’t even support fast-food restaurants downtown. Ironically, the $8 per ride is more costly than the average fast-food meal. If proponents of this really think it will fly, launch it with private sector funding and have a go at it. The city of Rochester hasn’t even paid off the debts from the Fast Ferry yet, and is so strapped that it has had to borrow money to make state mandated payments into the public employees retirement fund. No more spending on nonsense like this until the bills are paid for past stupidity.

    • April 23, 2015 at 9:04 am rochester_veteran responds:

      Taking into consideration that the City of Rochester is facing a $30+ million budget deficit this year, it would not make economic sense putting city taxpayer dollars into this project. As I wrote in my previous post, let the bike enthusiast community put their money where their mouths are concerning bike sharing. If they really want it, they can fund it.

  7. April 23, 2015 at 3:53 pm Orielly responds:

    Those numbers are so far out of whack or reality they are barely worth reading. Bike trips double every year till the last 5th year where there is an anticipated 279,000 trips at $8 bucks a trip over a likely 6 months or less time frame?
    Yr 5– 279,000 bike trips / 180 rideable days a year ( no rain, snow, cold as most people won’t use the bike those days) is 1550 bike trips a day? Averaging then about 193 trips per hour in an 8 hour day.. forgetting the bike travel time? How many bike trips does on make to when they realize its cheaper to own your own bike?

    Well we now know were the accountants that did the cost justification on the fast ferry ended up. I would expect the DEMs on city council will approve this in a manner of weeks. Heck there is at least one still on the council from those fast ferry days to lead the way.

    • Annual members times $85/yr plus Casual Rides times $8/ ride doesn’t equal the Bike Share Revenue.
      Looks like no one checked the figures.

  8. I’m not sure how this will work in Rochester. I like bicycles, I use them a lot, but I probably won’t use the bike share. I don’t see a lot of people taking the bus to work and using the bike share to get from the bus station to their final destination. I don’t really know if workers will use it at lunch time to get from their office to a restaurant. Rochester also needs to improve bicycle infrastructure if they want this to be successful. It takes a lot of nerve to ride on our streets, I’m not sure a lot of bike share users can stomach it.

  9. April 26, 2015 at 10:12 pm Adrian responds:

    I bike to work most days (exceptions being when it’s snowing/raining very hard). There is no reason to have a Rochester bike-sharing program. Bikes are very cheap. If you are extremely poor and can’t afford to buy one, R Community Bikes will give you one for free. I hope no taxpayer money goes to support this silly bike-sharing idea. If it does, it’ll only sour taxpayers on supporting more common-sense pro-bicycle policies (like protected bike lanes, repaving the bike paths, etc.).

  10. May 4, 2015 at 5:13 pm Bill responds:

    Not worth the money…must be graft somewhere. How about this idea instead? http://austin.car2go.com/

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