By many accounts, 2016 was a challenging year—one that political pundits and social commentators will likely talk about for ages to come. But in spite of global turmoil, political upsets, and general uncertainty, we believe 2017 is shaping up to be a great year for bike commuting! Here are our predictions of what we’ll see going forward in bikelandia.
Prediction: Building for bikes is now a priority, not an option
Basic bike racks
outside a building entrance or in a garage are no longer considered acceptable bike infrastructure. With the uptick in bike commuting nationwide developers, architects, and planners are starting to design and build more complex, full service bike facilities, known as “end-of-trip.” These spaces court cyclists by offering indoor secure bike parking, lockers, showers, DIY bike tools, even amenities like towel service, dehumidifying closets for wet gear, and bike wash stations.
The Dutch, our great bike innovators, set the precedent with large-scale EOT facilities like that at the Houten train station, where 60 percent of rail commuters arrive by bike or the “Bike Warehouse” in the Zaandam city center that accommodates 700 bikes. The United States is beginning to catch up though; the McDonald’s Cycle Center in Chicago, for instance, provides secure indoor bike parking, on-site mechanics, lockers, and shower facilities. This May, the largest (and nicest) EOT facility, Lloyd Cycle Station, opened in Portland, Oregon, with capacity for 1,200 bikes, a bike wash station, on-site mechanics, and a lounge complete with big a screen TV.
Another good example of top-of-the-line EOT can be found at 100 California, a multi-tenant building in downtown San Francisco. Its facility spoils commuters with lots of convenient bike parking, a bike repair station, lockers and showers, all wrapped in bright colors and cheery wall murals. And Stripe’s new headquarters, to open in 2017, will have a large, first-floor EOT bike facility with state-of-the-art bike racks
, bike repair and other amenities. The already high percentage of bike commuters at this company will be happy to stash their bikes and gear in a uber convenient and secure spot and still get to their morning meetings on time.
Prediction: Fleet bikes will come in two new kinds— electric and folding
Folks, we’re living in the golden age of bikeshare. As of August 2014, 600 cities worldwide had a bikeshare program, and that doesn’t count private bikeshares run by companies or universities. 2017 is shaping up to be another banner year for bikeshare.
This year, we saw the launch of the first system on the African continent—Medina Bike in Marrakesh—as well as the near instant success for Portland Oregon’s 1000 bike system—more than 100K miles ridden and nearly two trips per bike per day within three weeks of launch. Three weeks! Public clamor for bikeshare is so widespread, that even carshare is going bike: In September, Zipcar announced plans to add bikeshare as a service option.
Aside from expansion, the next frontier for bikeshare is a hardware upgrade. Currently Birmingham and Baltimore are the only cities to offer pedal-assist bikeshare bikes, run by Bewegen, a new operator in this space. But as e-bike technology improves and manufacturing costs decrease, we’ll likely see more and varied e-bikes rolled into the bikeshare fleet. This year, one major North American bikeshare supplier unveiled the Boost, an electric pedal-assist bicycle.
E-bikes vastly expand the distance or type of terrain a rider is able to traverse. This makes bikeshare more appealing to riders in less dense areas or places with hilly terrain.
We also suspect folding bikes to make an appearance in the realm of bikeshare, especially in places with highly utilized public transit. Bikes that fold are a great benefit when it’s rush hour, and the two-bike rack
on the front of the bus is already full or the bike car on the local commuter rail looks more like a chopshop.
Folding fleet bikes already exist in private bikeshare: Mozilla deployed a fleet of custom-branded Dahon folding bikes to help employees commute by bike and train between two offices in the Bay Area.
Given bikeshare users have vastly different needs, comfort-levels and commutes, outfitting bikeshare fleets with different types of bikes makes perfect sense. Now who’s up for making that pedal-assist folding bikeshare bike?
Prediction: Public-private partnerships will grow
The bikeshare saturation we see today would not be possible if it weren’t for private investment. Most of the world’s successful bikeshare systems are public-private partnerships, from the decade-old Vélib in Paris—operated by French advertising corporation JCDecaux, to new kid on the block Biketown in Portland—backed and branded by Nike. Most recently, Ford announced that it would sponsor the Bay Area’s bikeshare program, providing funding for 6,300 more bikes and rebanding the fleet with Ford’s logo. In all three cases and countless others, the municipality owns or runs the program and the corporate sponsor contributes funding and in some cases branding or advertisement.
Private partnerships extend beyond bikeshare. Again, given the general uptick in bike commuting, private organizations are happy to bankroll bike infrastructure projects that help their employees ride to work
When Facebook expanded its Menlo Park, California headquarters, it paid to beef up area bike routes their employees rode to get there. Similarly, Google earmarked $5 million for bike improvements in Mountain View, where it’s headquartered.
Then there are corporations that improve biking in their communities through their philanthropic arms. One great example is the Walton Family Foundation, started by the founders of Wal-Mart, that provided millions for bike projects in Arkansas—like installing protected bike lanes, teaching school children how to ride, and funding a 36-mile recreational trail.
Corporate responsibility or consciousness will likely continue to rise, and we’re looking forward to the bike improvements that will come with it. We’re also looking forward to the self-driving bike … just kidding!