Opinion: Why Oxford needs to hop on the Bike-Sharing Band-Wagon

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With the revocation of the bussing system in Oxford into the Butler County Regional Transit’s hands–usurping student’s ability to travel across Oxford quickly and easily–it is time to implement a legitimate bike-sharing program. Not just a University-wide program—as Miami University student Hunter Leachman proposed last year— but a city wide program.

Bike-sharing programs are popular around the world. They are in place in urbanized cities on every continent except those obviously not suited for cycle traffic (Antarctica, for example).

Bicycles not only ensure the reduction of emissions as proposed by Sofia Vidalis and others in this article from 2010, but the cost and efficiency of reported bike sharing programs (namely, the cited program in Portland, Oregon) is a certain plus for local economies as well.

Programs have shown to reduce traffic congestion, improve health, and moreover, seem to solve “the Last Mile” problem. The Last Mile is a concept in transportation and city planning that articulates a set of issues regarding individuals’ access to mass transportation. This is to say if a citizen is out of “reasonable walking distance” to a major transportation hub (bus, train,) the individual is unlikely to ever make it “elsewhere”, which raises—in the eyes of sociologists and economists— a score of problems associated with their respective disciplines.

Oxford is small, and I am not to treat this area as if it were Wuhan, which has the largest bike-sharing program in the world involving 90,000 bikes, an urban population of more than 6 million and an overall population of 11 million. But, to implement a bike sharing program would eliminate and settle several issues in the area:

 

  1. Limited availability and inconvenient timing at bus stops.

Sometimes, the bus will get a student to class on time and without trouble, but waiting 15 or more minutes for a bus in a city of this size seems inane at best. Placing bike stations near the bus stops would create a two-way interchange and allow the bussing system more efficiency, as well as provide pedestrians with options when getting off the bus. Also, with only one-lane roads within the city limits, it decreases the feasibility of driving or taking the bus. Think about any given week day around 8 am when all main streets in Oxford— namely, High, Spring, and Patterson— are congested and slowed to a near standstill at peak hours, most of the traffic being in-city . . . which brings me to the next point:

  1. More bikes on the roads mean fewer cars.

With fewer cars on the two lane roads within Oxford, traffic will allow ease of pedestrian foot traffic as well as bicycle traffic, which may further encourage the widespread use of bicycles. Fewer cars also mean a decrease parking unavailability, meaning less parking tickets, and happier students.

 

A few dangers and issues must be considered when trying to imagine a community suddenly dense with bicycle traffic. Rider–driver safety relations would have to be strictly monitored, or even enforced, recently a cyclist was struck and killed in Columbus. Although Columbus seems to be the perfect area for cycling, with its wide, linear streets designed to accommodate both automobile and cycle traffic, accidents do happen. Oxford typically has wide, accessible side walks that could be used primarily for bike traffic if a program were implemented: some of the side walks, such as pathways on the hills of University Ave and Bishop Ave as well as the side walks on Sycamore, for example, would have to be evened and repaired to make the residential area–campus commute feasible. To suddenly implement a city-wide bike-sharing program would not immediately remove all cars from the road, and adding bikes would increase danger to inexperienced cyclists and inattentive drivers.

Costs involving the purchasing and installation of infrastructure necessary to facilitate a bike-sharing program would add just another orange barrel in Oxford. In the university area, rampant construction is already an issue for pedestrian traffic.

The cost and rules involved in renting a bike are also a concern, and patrons must be careful of overtime fees, deposits, and membership fees. In Columbus’ CoGo Bike sharing program, members can pay $75 a year to take out a bike any time with unlimited 30-minute-trips. However, the largest catch of the bike-sharing program are incongruous logistical paradoxes that allow default “overtime” charges. If a destination is an hour away with no stations in-between, $3 will be added for subsequent 30-minute intervals the bike is not docked. Because the sharing program is a sharing program, the bikes must be a returned to a station every thirty minutes, to ensure fair usage: even if a customer has purchased a 24-hour pass, or is a member. Also, a deposit is withdrawn if a rental is made with a credit or debit card (the only way to purchase to ensure accountability) of anywhere from $150 to $250 to ensure the safety of the bike. In Columbus, for example, a lost or stolen bike will cost a customer $1,200.

The city, the university and the students should not consider lightly the prospect of a bike-sharing program: there are abundant positive results and changes a program can bring, but also adjustments in the fabric of social and economic ideology to be made if the city or university choose to bring a program to Oxford.

Photo License: Creative Commons

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