Why Drivers Should Embrace Bike Share? It Expands Parking Capacity

With bike share schemes being implemented in the past year in Chicago, New York, and San Francisco it seems like this new form of public transportation is taking hold in the United States.  Often billed as a solution to the “last mile” problem, bike share allows an inexpensive and low-impact way of dispersing public transportation options, enhancing accessibility to transit hubs and other destinations.

Quarter mile walk

One critique we hear about bike share relates to the location of the kiosks–particularly when they are placed on the street where car parking was previously allowed.  People see “scarce” parking being sacrificed for the bike scheme and businesses often are concerned about how a kiosk might impact accessibility.

Positioning biking and bike share as necessarily anti-automobile is misguided.  In fact, one could argue that it could help disperse parking, alleviating congestion and wasteful efforts circling blocks looking for a place to park.

I’ll give my own commute as an example.  My office is situated in transit-friendly, mixed-use neighborhood of Lincoln Park in Chicago.  Probably about 80% of the time I either commute by bike or train from my home 8.5 miles away.  Sometimes, however, I need to drive.  The university charges $7 to park, which can be avoided by finding a place to park on the street.  The commercial streets are geared towards short-term metered parking, but one can sometimes find street-parking in the neighborhood.  In general I feel good if I can park within a five minute walk of the office, after that point “distance decay” sets in and the attractiveness of driving declines the further I get from my destination.

With the introduction of Divvy bike share in the neighborhood, however, the “five minute” rule of accessibility gets expanded.  I no longer really care about parking within a five minute walk of my destination; if I can get within a five minute bike ride I am satisfied.  With a bike kiosk in front of my office, my parking universe grows.

Quarter-mile and three-quarter mile buffers

Just for fun, I did a network analysis of the quarter mile buffer around my office, which is about how far the average person can walk in five minutes.  Because the campus is in the way, my parking options are more limited than normal and I really need to park within 2-3 blocks in order to make my walk to the office clock in at under five minutes.

The second map shows the same analysis with a three-quarter mile buffer, which is about how far the average person could bike in five minutes.  As you can see, there are more than a dozen Divvy kiosks within my five-minute bike ride area.  The further one is removed from the university and the major thoroughfares of Lincoln Ave. and Fullerton Ave., the more parking becomes available.  As long as I am able to park relatively close to a Divvy kiosk, I can get to work within the 5 minute threshold.

I would imagine that as the network grows, there will be more opportunities for dispersed parking strategies in Chicago’s neighborhoods.  If you drive in Chicago and want to spend less money on parking, get a bike share membership.