Capital Bikeshare vs. Dockless Bikeshare

As a resident of Arlington, I have a unique location to watch Capital Bikeshare “compete” with dockless bikeshare. I put compete in quotes because the mutual goal of Capital Bikeshare and the five dockless bikeshare companies is to get more people biking. However, some bike planners believe dockless bikeshare will pull enough people from Capital Bikeshare that it won’t be able to compete with dockless bikeshare.

Since bikeshare is still new to most Americans, I want to make sure everyone knows the difference between dock-based and dockless bikeshare. Dock-based bikeshare systems require the bike to be docked at a station. Capital Bikeshare is the main dock-based bikeshare system that operates in the DC region.

Dockless bikeshare systems have bikes that are self-locked. The five dockless bikeshare companies operating in the DC region are Jump, LimeBike, Mobike, ofo, and Spin. While Jump is the only company with e-bikes, LimeBike and Spin announced last week that they plan to start offering e-bikes soon.

Capital Bikeshare vs Dockless Bikeshare

Source: Transit App

I have a unique location to watch this bikeshare situation because of how the permitting process is unfolding across the DC region. While Capital Bikeshare is permitted to operate throughout the region, only DC has given permits to all five dockless bikeshare companies. Since DC is geographically small and dockless bikeshare companies have been struggling to inform their customers that they don’t have a permit to operate outside of DC, I’ve been watching how human behavior and official government processes react to this issue. Arlington wrote this blog post to educate people about the different types of bikeshare. I found the following statement interesting.

“the six-month trial of dockless bikeshare is entirely a DC project at this time. The operators do not have an agreement with Arlington County so their operating location is within Washington, DC borders.

If you see a bike in Arlington, you can contact the operator to collect their bike to take back into DC, or you can ride the bike back into the operating location (JUMP bike offers a $1 credit every when a bike is ridden back into the operating area).

This is all still very early in the experimental phase so there is no telling right now how policies could change.”

If this wasn’t confusing enough, only four of the five dockless bikeshare companies have permits from Montgomery County, MD to operate in Silver Spring and Takoma Park. I believe the fifth company, Jump, has decided not to expand to Montgomery County yet because it wants to focus on DC. None of the dockless bikeshare companies have permits to operate elsewhere in DC’s Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Plus, they can’t operate on National Park Service (NPS) property. This is important because the National Mall and regional trails like the Mount Vernon Trail are owned by the NPS.

Dockless Bikeshare

Map of dockless bikeshare’s service area in Silver Spring and Takoma Park, MD. Source: WashCycle

Even if the NPS gave permits to the dockless bikeshare companies to operate on its property, e-bikes are banned from NPS-owned trails. However, I haven’t seen this ban enforced and it doesn’t appear to be discouraging many people from riding e-bikes on trails. I’m curious to see whether this controversial NPS ban becomes more heated as LimeBike and Spin join Jump in having e-bikes.

Since the dockless bikeshare parking issues have been reported everywhere, look at Dockless Bike Fail’s tweets for photo evidence. What do you think about the issues I have discussed in this post?

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Transportation and Land Use in Ray’s Housing Decisions

As you may have noticed, it has been a few months since my last post. I’ve had a burning desire to write, but kept telling myself that the topics are work sensitive or too personal to share publicly. After reading this GGWash post and discovering that I haven’t written a post about my current and previous housing decisions, I finally found a topic that I feel comfortable writing about publicly. Since I have lived in Arlington for almost a year, which means my year lease ends on October 31, this is a good time for me to start reflecting on whether I want to stay put or move nearby. I enjoy my job so I plan to stay in Arlington. My year lease states that I must give my landlord 60 days notice, so I need to make a decision before the end of August.

Through this process, I keep comparing my current housing decision with my previous housing decisions in Charlotte, Silver Spring, and Portland. The below post compares and contrasts these decisions. Since I didn’t choose to live in Kannapolis, which is where my parents raised me after I was born in Charlotte, I didn’t include Kannapolis. As this post discusses, the Kannapolis home I was raised in has a Walk Score of zero!

Kannapolis Walk Score (zip code)

Arlington, VA

Even though I was rushed to find housing in a competitive market before starting my new job, I may have found the cheapest housing within a walkable distance of a light rail station, frequent service bus lines, and several regional trails. I’m paying less than $900 per month (plus $50 for water and $35 for my portion of WiFi) for a room in a 10-room house. I earn enough through my job that I could spend more on housing, but I don’t see the need to spend more when I’m already close enough to my destinations to continue living car-free. Plus, good housemates aren’t guaranteed when renting so I treasure this at my current home. I can use the savings to go on more expensive vacations and prepare for owning a condo or house.

1117 N Taylor St, Arlington, VA Walk Score

Arlington, VA Home

While many of my NC family and friends have been shocked by how much I pay for housing, I think they find it challenging to understand how much I save by living car-free. As the below table shows, which I found in this article, walkable places reduce combined housing and transportation costs. Most people don’t calculate all the costs involved with owning, maintaining, and driving an automobile. For example, I think most people don’t calculate parking costs (could be hidden if their employer takes parking out of their paycheck or doesn’t pay them more because their employer is paying for expensive parking), poor mental health from being stuck in daily traffic congestion and not spending much time with their family, poor physical health from not exercising enough and becoming obese, etc.

traditional city vs sprawling city costs

My boss covers most of my transportation costs, so I pay almost zero on transportation each month. He provides me with a free Capital Bikeshare maintenance key that I can use for all my trips, including personal trips. He also provides me with a SmarTrip card for all my work-related transit trips. The largest transportation purchase I have made so far is for this $800 bike that I mostly use for shopping and trips where Capital Bikeshare isn’t located yet.

My housing decision makes using these transportation options much easier because I can easily walk to the Ballston Metro Station to ride transit throughout the DC region and bike throughout the DC region on regional trails or low-stress neighborhood streets. While I rarely use it for personal trips, the DC region also has great carsharing and car renting options and Uber/Lyft.

Since I started this blog with the intention of following my life’s journey from living in Kannapolis to where life takes me, I want to share how my current housing decision relates to my housing decisions in Charlotte, Silver Spring, and Portland.

Charlotte, NC

My car-light lifestyle started when I moved to Charlotte in 2009 to start undergrad at UNC Charlotte. While I lived car-free when I was in Charlotte, I needed a car to go home to Kannapolis so I barely lived car-light. Even though I sometimes think about how I used to pay about $400 per month for housing in Charlotte, which is less than half of what I currently pay in Arlington, the location of my housing in Charlotte lacks the transportation access that I currently enjoy in Arlington. While I was within easy biking distance of a regional trail that started at UNC Charlotte, the trail didn’t provide me with much transportation access so it was mostly a recreational trail. In addition, I couldn’t walk to any transit stations and the local bus was unreliable. I found it faster to bike on unsafe roads throughout Charlotte than wait for transit to arrive.

The Edge Charlotte Walk Score

The Edge at UNC Charlotte

Silver Spring, MD

My fully car-free lifestyle started when I moved to Silver Spring in 2014 to become a Transportation Planning Intern at Toole Design Group. While I didn’t have many choices where to live in Silver Spring because I was seeking short-term housing for just the summer, I was lucky to have a Charlotte friend that had a connection to someone who owns a home in Silver Spring. Thankfully, the home was located in a prime location to live car-free.

I was a block from the Sligo Creek Trail, which provided some transportation access in addition to recreation usage. Since I wanted to explore the entire DC region, I enjoyed having access to the car-free (just on the weekend) Beech Drive in Rock Creek Park and Capital Crescent Trail. While the Silver Spring Metro Station was further from home than the Ballston Metro Station is to my current home, I enjoyed having better transit access than I had in Charlotte.

8410 Galveston Rd, Silver Spring, MD Walk Score

Silver Spring, MD Home

Portland, OR

The last place I lived before moving to Arlington was Portland. My apartment was next to the SE Salmon/Taylor neighborhood greenway, so I had easy access to a low-volume, low-speed walking and biking route. Sunday Parkways went along this route both years I was in Portland, so this route is prime for walking and biking. While I miss Portland’s neighborhood greenways because Arlington has nothing similar yet, I don’t miss Portland’s hills. Since I have an extreme fear of heights, I didn’t enjoy biking downhill to cross the Willamette River. Yes, Arlington also has hills but I rarely have to bike down them because I work from home and usually do field work in locations with few steep hills.

I also miss being within easy (two Portland blocks, which are 200 feet) walking distance of a grocery store in Portland. I enjoyed having the flexibility to walk to the grocery store to get one or two items instead of waiting until I’m almost out of groceries. Since the nearest grocery store to my Arlington home is .6 mile away, I wait until I need enough groceries to fill both bike panniers.

While walking and biking from my Portland home to my destinations was easy, transit wasn’t easy. The Hawthorne and Belmont buses came about every 15 minutes and most of my bike trips only took 15 minutes, so I rarely took the bus. I wasn’t near a MAX station so I couldn’t ride light rail from home.

1117 SE 27th Ave, Portland, OR Walk Score

Portland, OR Home

Future Blog Post

My boss and I were selected to present at the North American Bikeshare Association Conference in Montreal on August 31. We will be presenting during the session titled The “Perfect” Site. My only conference presentation occurred when I presented my high school senior exit project during a poster session at the Southeastern Division of the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting in 2008. This means the presentation in Montreal will be my first time presenting as a speaker. It will also be my first time attending a conference outside the US. My boss asked me to create our presentation, so I plan to use this presentation to write a blog post.

How Ray’s Blog Got Started

Several people, including my new Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) mentee, have asked me recently why I started blogging. Even though I wrote this post about what my blog title “0 to 100” means, I’m shocked I never wrote the story about who inspired me to start blogging. Stephan Hoche and I were catching up during Spring 2014 at Zada Jane’s Corner Cafe in Charlotte’s Plaza Midwood Neighborhood. I remember Zada Jane’s Corner Cafe because we were playing shuffleboard. Stephan and I were close friends at UNC Charlotte so Stephan constantly heard my passion. I was preparing to move to Maryland for an internship at Toole Design Group then Oregon for grad school at Portland State University so Stephan encouraged me to blog about my passion and my upcoming adventure. He even helped me come up with my blog title “0 to 100”.

stephan-and-ray

Ray (Left) and Stephan on November 26, 2016

As people ask me to reflect on my blog, I have reflected on what I was thinking when I started blogging during Spring 2014 and how my thoughts have changed over the years. When I started blogging during Spring 2014 I felt near complete freedom to blog about any topic. I didn’t have a job so I didn’t feel a need to be careful about what I wrote on my blog. Fast forward to today and I now have a full-time job that involves consulting for several governments in the Washington, DC region. These governments work on projects that I want to blog about so I have to be more careful what I write than I expected when I first started blogging.

Even though it wasn’t a major focus when I started blogging, my APBP mentee asked me whether I started this blog to help me get noticed by employers so I could get a job. While many employers asked me about my blog during job interviews, I believe my blog may have actually scared many employers away from me. Many employers told me during my post-grad school job interviews that based on what they read in my blog posts they were concerned I was too passionate and wouldn’t give up if they told me “no” to a progressive idea.

I know Stephan reads my blog posts. Since I can’t tell you thank you in person for inspiring me to start blogging, I hope this blog post will serve as a thank you.

Walking, Biking and Riding Transit in Portland, OR vs. Washington, DC

Since my car-free travel behavior has changed dramatically between Portland and DC, I want to compare how my walking, biking, and transit riding habits have changed between living in Portland and now living in the DC region.

Except for the few months in late 2015 and early 2016 where I fully depended on walking and riding transit in Portland because I felt too anxious biking, I mostly walked and biked for all my trips in Portland. I was planning to also mostly walk and bike throughout the DC region because transit is expensive (not as expensive as owning and maintaining a car). While I still walk and bike in the DC region, my boss provided me with a transit card for work trips so I have been riding transit much more than I planned to when I moved here. My boss also provided me with a Capital Bikeshare maintenance key (no time limits like normal keys) for work and personal trips so I haven’t been riding my private bike as often. Since I can’t carry my panniers on Capital Bikeshare, I have been mostly using my private bike for getting groceries and other shopping trips.

Biking in Portland vs. DC region

I don’t live in DC so, while DC has bike racks almost everywhere and the bike racks are usually designed correctly, I have experienced no bike racks or poorly designed bike racks often in Arlington. The below photo shows a ladder or wheel bender rack at a grocery store near my home in Arlington. Thankfully, I don’t have to deal with bike parking issues when parking a Capital Bikeshare bike because I have always found an empty dock.

 

Since I depended so much on the DC region’s great trail systems when I lived in the DC region during summer 2014, I was looking forward to depending on the DC region’s great trail systems again. Even though I rode a road bike last time I lived in the DC region, anxiety from my extreme fear of heights has gotten much worse so I have been struggling to ride on hilly trails like the Custis Trail and trails along steep cliffs like the Four Mile Run Trail. Since I doubt I will conquer my fear of heights soon, I’m planning to buy a $3-4,000 recumbent trike so I can reduce the anxiety I feel when biking on hilly trails and along steep cliffs.

 

While the trails are great for long-distance trips, they don’t go everywhere so I still have to use on-street bike routes. I forgot how bad most of the on-street bike infrastructure is in the DC region. Yes, I know DC has protected bike lanes, which are actually better than any protected bike lanes in Portland. However, protected bike lanes in the DC region are on very few streets so I rarely ride on them.

I’m missing Portland’s neighborhood greenways. I used to live at SE 27th and Salmon, which is on a neighborhood greenway, so I memorized the neighborhood greenways. I rarely had to ride on busy roads outside of downtown Portland because neighborhood greenways went almost everywhere. Thankfully, I have found one element of neighborhood greenways in the DC region. Sharrows are found throughout the DC region. Even though the DC region has installed sharrows, which is a critical and cheap element to Portland’s neighborhood greenways, the DC region has horrible wayfinding for cyclists so the sharrows aren’t part of a neighborhood greenway. Due to this, I feel sharrows are only used in the DC region to communicate to cyclists that the government believes that the street is safe enough for biking and to communicate to motorists that they should expect to see cyclists using the street. Sharrows do much more than this in Portland so I miss biking on Portland’s neighborhood streets.

Before I totally dismiss the DC region’s on-street bike network, I’m excited to share that the DC region has several Level of Traffic Stress (LTS) maps. As all the below maps show, the DC region has plenty of work to do to make their on-street bike network feel more comfortable and less stressful. However, I find these maps much more useful than normal bike maps. This is mostly because a normal bike map shows all bike lanes the same while a LTS map shows bike lanes by how comfortable or stressful they are to ride on.

Arlington County, VA 2017 Bicycle Comfort Level Map (click to download front and back of map)

Montgomery County, MD Bicycle Stress Map (click to view map)

montgomery-county-lts-map

According to a presentation by Stephanie Dock, who works for District DOT, at the Transportation Techies meetup in October 2016, District DOT will be publicly releasing their LTS map soon so I’ll add their map when it’s released.

This blog post is getting long. I try to keep my blog posts under 1,000 words and will go over 1,000 words if I keep writing this blog post. While I still want to compare how my walking and transit riding habits have changed between Portland and DC, I may have to write about them in a new blog post. Readers, do you want me to write about my walking and transit riding habits in this blog post or start a new blog post?

Returning to the Automobile Dependent South

My train leaves Washington, DC for Charlotte, NC this Saturday. The below photo shows how I transported everything one mile from the home I was staying in to the Takoma Park metro station then on the Red Line to Union Station.

Transporting everything I brought to DC back home to North Carolina

Transporting everything I brought to DC back home to North Carolina

While I am looking forward to catching up with family and friends before moving to Portland, OR in September, I am very nervous and frustrated about returning to the automobile dependent South. I have thoroughly enjoyed living car-free in the Washington, DC region since the end of June. During this time, I have been commuting to and from work, carrying groceries, attending meetings, and many other trips all by bicycle. In addition, I have been biking 100 miles over two days on some weekends. All of this will most likely change to near zero bike trips and near zero miles of biking everyday until I move to Portland, OR in September.

Due to the Washington, DC region having such a great network of trails, almost the entire 100 mile distance was on trails. The below map, which I found here and was last updated in 2003, shows the locations of most of the multi-use trails in the DC region.

Map of DC Multi-Use Trails

Map of DC Multi-Use Trails

Since the multi-use trails are separated from automobile traffic, I didn’t have to deal with fast moving automobile traffic or stressed out motorists that don’t seam to care about other people, including other motorists. While the Charlotte region is improving its trail network, especially with the help of all the parks and recreation departments and the Carolina Thread Trail, it currently does not have long distance trail networks. The below map shows current and future greenways in Mecklenburg County.

Mecklenburg County Greenway Map

Mecklenburg County Greenway Map

Due to the Charlotte region not having the extensive trail network that the DC region has, I am going to be forced to bike on the road for most of my trips again. Since this is too stressful for me and the high risk of dying, I will most likely leave my bike at home and use my parents’ automobile again. I almost wish I wasn’t returning to the South before moving to Portland, OR.

When “No Outlet”, “Dead End” and “Closed” aren’t really true: How do you sign for bicyclists and pedestrians?

The Washington, DC region is a great region to explore by bicycle. I biked about 400 miles in July and have talked with several people living in the region that also do not own a car. I met many of these people while biking on the wonderful trail systems and Beach Drive through Rock Creek Park. While we found the trail systems and know that Beach Drive is closed only to motor traffic on the weekends and holidays, the signage to reach the trail systems and the closed portions of Beach Drive do not help to inform more people about the trail systems and the closed portions of Beach Drive. Compared to most transportation projects, fixing the signage is cheap and easy. The impact of this easy fix could be tremendous in reducing congestion on area roads and helping to direct people to where they can improve their health. While I would love to take credit for coming up with the title of this post, Eli Glazier, an intern that sits next to me at Toole Design Group, posted the following to Twitter.

No Outlet Sign on Toole Design Group's Twitter

No Outlet Sign on Toole Design Group’s Twitter

Even though there is no outlet for motorists in the above photo, there is an outlet for bicyclists and pedestrians so they can reach Rock Creek Trail, which is 14 miles long. This shows how much people think about motorists and don’t consider bicyclists and pedestrians. I haven’t actually biked on Rock Creek Trail, but the following description, which I found on this site, informs me that the above signage is not the only signage issue with this trail.

“The trail also suffers from an extreme lack of directional signs. In a number of places, it is very difficult to determine the “main” trail route. Expect to take a couple of accidental side trail detours when you first ride this trail.”

I like to approach every issue I see with options for how to resolve the issue so I have researched options for how to resolve the above issue. An “Except Bikes and Pedestrians” sign can be placed below the “No Outlet” sign. The below photo, which I found here, shows an example of how this could look.

Do Not Enter Except Bikes Sign

Except Bikes Sign

The above sign could be used with the below “Dead End Except Bikes” sign to provide even more clarity.

Dead End Except Bikes Sign

Dead End Except Bikes Sign

My coworker’s Twitter post helped me to look for the signage issue in other locations. Unfortunately, I found several other locations where the signage is only for motorists and does not consider bicyclists and pedestrians. The following photo shows a “No Outlet” sign along the access road to the Sligo Creek Trail, which is 10.6 miles long. The reason why I have been including the length of the trails is because I want to inform people how long these trail networks are. They truly are long trails and a missed opportunity if someone cannot find the trail because of poor signage. As the below photo shows, the Sligo Creek Trail is near Arcola Elementary School. While I can hope the people who attend and work at this school use the Sligo Creek Trail to travel to and from school, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of them drive an automobile to and from school. If this is the case, I would start a Safe Routes to School program at this school to encourage usage of the Sligo Creek Trail to travel to and from school. I noticed several homes located along the Sligo Creek Trail so there has to be some people who can participate in the Safe Routes to School program at this school.

“No Outlet” sign along access road to Sligo Creek Trail

Since every road that ends at the Sligo Creek Trail in this area has “No Outlet” signs, I would not have known which road to proceed down to access the Sligo Creek Trail if I didn’t have a smart phone with Google Maps to direct me to the correct road. Even though most people today have smart phones, what if I didn’t have a smart phone? Would I still have been bale to find the correct road to access the Sligo Creek Trail? Without good signage, people without smart phones can easy get lost trying to find the entrance to the Sligo Creek Trail.

While the below signage isn’t as big of an issue, I don’t understand why the signage seems to assume that bicyclists and pedestrians know they are allowed to use the Sligo Creek Trail. Since I have found some trails that prohibit bicyclists, I would enjoy seeing signage informing me that I can use the Sligo Creek Trail. Signage needs to be used in both cases and not just when a certain mode of transportation cannot use the trail. The top sign clearly states that “No Motor Vehicles” are allowed on the Sligo Creek Trail. I don’t see any signage to indicate that the Sligo Creek Trail is open to bicyclists and pedestrians.

Entrance to the Sligo Creek Trail

Entrance to the Sligo Creek Trail

The following “No Outlet” signs are located on Willow Lane in Chevy Chase, MD. While there is no outlet for motorists, there is a nice path for bicyclists and pedestrians at the end of Willow Lane that connects Willow Lane to Oakridge Avenue and Leland Street.

Dead End Signs

Dead End Signs

I have used the below path several times as I bike from downtown DC to Silver Spring, MD. This path provides a nice connection between where the Capital Crescent Trail ends in Bethesda, MD and where I connect to Beach Drive in Chevy Chase, MD. Since this path is shown on Google Maps as a bike path, Google Maps directed me to use this path. What if I didn’t have a smart phone to direct me to use this path? More cyclists and pedestrians may use this path if the above “No Outlet” signs and below “Dead End” sign were corrected with “Except Bikes and Pedestrians” signs.

Dead End Sign at Entrance to Path

Dead End Sign at Entrance to Path

Several sections of Beach Drive are closed to motor vehicles within Rock Creek Park on the weekends and holidays. As the below photo shows, it appears these sections of Beach Drive are closed to all modes of transportation. This isn’t true. Since cyclists and pedestrians can use the closed sections of Beach Drive, an “Except Bikes and Pedestrians” sign should be installed to resolve this confusion. By installing this sign, more cyclists and pedestrians should use the closed sections of Beach Drive. I have been riding on the closed sections of Beach Drive every weekend and it is one of the highlights of my weekend.

Beach Drive

Beach Drive “Closed” at DC Line

The below photo shows the opening in one of the closed sections along Beach Drive so bicyclists and pedestrians can access Beach Drive when it is closed to motorists.

Opening in

Opening in “closed” section of Beach Drive

The below photo shows the white sign better so you should be able to read it. wpid-wp-1407126679805.jpeg

Have you seen “No Outlet”, “Dead End” or “Closed” signs where you live? Does the road end at the entrance to a trail or path that bicyclists or pedestrians can use? If so, do the “No Outlet”, “Dead End” or “Closed” signs include “Except Bikes and Pedestrians” signs?