Today during my lunch break I went to get a little preview of Nashville’s long-awaited bike share system at one of the kiosks they’re setting up around town this week. There seemed to be a good bit of interest, with people popping in and out the whole time I was there. Bcycle, which runs bike shares in several other cities across North America, including Chicago, Houston, Denver and Madison, will be in charge of the program, and a representative told me they will be rolling out with 200 bikes in 20 locations, centered on the downtown core, “sometime this fall.” I took one of the bikes out for a little spin.
They’re Trek bikes. All the testers (which were from various city bikeshare programs—mine was from Omaha!) had 3 speed Nexus hubs, skirt guards, chain cases, lights and fenders. Some had baskets and racks, some just baskets. Mine had a front and side basket, as well as a rear rack.
The Bcycle people said that bringing some of the 7-speed Treks in to Nashville, once the share is launched, is a possibility.
It was hotter than hell, high noon, and the station was in a somewhat awkward area (a parking lot hemmed in by one-way streets and streets that are not bike friendly, aka Broadway and West End) so I only went around the block a couple of times. But the bike had a nice, relaxed seating position, almost like a beach cruiser, and was easy to ride in my dress and heels.
They’re still finalizing the pricing structure for Bcycle in Nashville, but as with other bike shares, the first 30 minutes of use will be free, and you can purchase daily or annual memberships.
Locations are still TBD as well. Jonathan, the representative I spoke with, mentioned they were hoping to get one at the foot of the Capitol building (great visibility for the program), and that there’d be at least two on the Vanderbilt campus, and probably some in East Nashville.
That spread of locations doesn’t sound like it would make for density to me: Vandy to East Nashville would mean a five-mile radius at least, which is a pretty big area for just 20 stations and 200 bikes. This Tennessean article says there will be kiosks every 1.5 miles, which is not close enough. To be fair, while that 1.5-mile figure seems in line with the distances they are talking about covering and the number of stations they’ll have to start, it does not line up with what the Jonathan from Bcycle told me, which was that he thinks you should be able to practically see one station from the previous one. So who knows what we’ll end up with?
Although I would love to have this service in East Nashville, in my opinion it would be a better idea to put more stations on this side of the river and make it useful for people and save that side for stage 2. Bike share programs suffer from the same problems as other forms of public transportation—initial rollout is limited, which limits the usefulness, which limits usage, which causes people to say that the system has failed. Here’s hoping that the Nashville bike share will be able to gain traction.
If you are in Nashville, there are two more demos (tomorrow in East Nashville, and Friday at the Farmer’s Market), so check them out if you have a chance.