O&S Board Member Harry Rybacki and volunteer Jake Clayton sat down with folks at Red Hat to get their take on the recently-approved Raleigh BikeShare. Red Hat already has a small, private bike share; we mused on the potential relationships between smaller bike shares and the city-wide system. Read on for more from one of the the most recognizable businesses in downtown Raleigh.
Bike Share Interview #3: Red Hat
Red Hat Tower is difficult to miss. Among the most impressive buildings in Raleigh with its modern design and bright red roof, it stands as an apt symbol for one of the leaders in Raleigh’s booming downtown. Oaks and Spokes board member Harry Rybacki, himself a Red Hat employee, took a few minutes to sit down with Christi Turner (Facility Operations Program Manager) and Ben Thedieck (Office Coordinator) to talk about what the Raleigh BikeShare might mean for the tech giant.
Right out of the gate, Turner and Thedieck were excited to share Red Hat’s current alternative transportation initiatives, including their own bike share, Quick Spin. The Quick Spin program helps Red Hat associates get around town for errands and meetings, much like the larger Raleigh BikeShare might. Turner recalled a recent outing during which “Ben [Thedieck] and I . . . went up to the museum and surprised my youngest son” one afternoon. The Quick Spin program makes sense for downtown commuters, our Red Hatters agreed, because it allows associates to bypass the tedious and time-consuming parking process that accompanies automobile use. Outings like Turner and Thedieck’s help associates get more done during the week, both personally and professionally.
Red Hat’s Quick Spin program incentivizes healthier modes of transportation, helps those who participate integrate with their communities, and takes cars off the road during busy workdays. However, it’s worth noting that most companies don’t operate on the same scale as Red Hat. For smaller companies, a privately-owned bike share may not make sense. In Raleigh’s vibrant start-up community, for example, there are countless talented professionals who stand to benefit from a more comprehensive transportation infrastructure. The Raleigh Bike Share could provide that growing group of professionals with a valuable resource.
While the benefit for smaller companies is obvious, Turner and Thedieck also suggested that the Raleigh Bike Share may have a positive impact on Red Hat’s own alternative transportation initiatives. For starters, the Quick Spin program doesn’t allow Red Hat associates to commute to work via bicycle; it isn’t designed to provide a last mile solution. By contrast, the principle of the last mile rests at the very heart of the Raleigh Bike Share project, which will position bike share stations near bus stops to capitalize on Raleigh’s existing alternative transportation infrastructure.
Along with giving people a range of bicycle options, the Raleigh Bike Share could actually make using Red Hat’s Quick Spin program safer. Turner suggested that “when the city of Raleigh focuses on bike riding in the city, that gets the bikers excited at Red Hat to share the road and give them the same treatment [as cars].” In other words, drivers may acclimate to bicycles. It seems paradoxical, but Turner isn’t the only one who thinks that more bicycles might actually lead to fewer accidents. Eric Lamb, the Transportation Planning Manager for the City of Raleigh, recently suggested that “[t]he more drivers see bikes on the road leads to better awareness and lower accident rates overall” (1). In terms of safety, then, users of smaller bike shares, like NCSU’s WolfWheels or Red Hat’s Quick Spin, actually stand to gain from the widespread adoption of transportation bicycling in Raleigh.
At one point or another, every discussion about bike shares turns to parking. Red Hat’s alternative transportation program, which incentivizes commuters who bike or take the bus, is partially motivated by the increasing demand for parking in downtown Raleigh. In the city’s adopted budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year, more than $17,000,000 is designated for parking (2). However, the true cost of parking may actually be even greater. Sprawling parking, which transportation scholars have called a “subtle subsidy of the automotive industry” has been linked to a range of negative economic and environmental outcomes for cities (3). Red Hat’s Quick Spin program shows an investment in the overall well being of the community. It’s safe to say that Raleigh is proud to have innovative companies like Red Hat call our downtown home. When it comes to alternative transportation, the city could benefit by taking a page from Red Hat’s book.
(1)Gala, Christa. “Pedaling in Raleigh.” Raleigh Magazine 2 Feb 2016
(2)“City of Raleigh Adopted Budget 2015-2016” raleighnc.gov
(3)Davis, Amelie Y. et al. “The Environmental and Economic Costs of Sprawling Parking Lots in the United States.” Land Use Policy 27, no. 2 (2010). doi:10.1016/j.landusepol.2009.03.002
Good news, everyone! Last week, the Raleigh City Council approved the proposal for the Raleigh Bike Share with an 8-1 vote. Oaks and Spokes, WakeUP Wake County, and many other individuals and organizations worked tirelessly to raise this project’s visibility, and the City Council’s overwhelming support is evidence of our ability to affect change at the local level. However, the process of realizing the Raleigh BikeShare’s full potential is still in its infancy. Moving forward, here are some of the benefits and challenges we will likely encounter as the Raleigh BikeShare becomes a reality.
First, we would like to thank the City Council for supporting this new addition to Raleigh transit system. As we implement the Raleigh BikeShare, Raleigh will join twenty-seven other US cities as a transportation innovator. Having reviewed bike share programs across the country, we are confident that Raleigh’s BikeShare, which will serve citizens from all across our city, will stimulate our local economy and improve the quality of living in our city. By replacing cars or pedestrian travel for short trips and providing a “last mile solution” for those citizens who use other forms of public transit, the BikeShare will have Raleigh moving in a whole new way.
We applaud our representatives for understanding that the Raleigh BikeShare is an addition to the city’s infrastructure. As such, the costs associated with the Raleigh BikeShare should be considered relative to the costs of other elements of our city’s infrastructure. The $438,000 operating cost, which we believe will be largely subsidized by our community partners, is nothing to sneeze at. However, the price tag looks a bit more reasonable beside the adopted budget for parking in the 2015-16 fiscal year, which was $17,849,615, or forty times as much. The cost seems less outlandish next to the numbers for stormwater management, which received $17,748,688 in the 2015-16 budget. We’re not here to criticize these programs; rather, we hope that these numbers help concerned citizens put the price of this new piece of infrastructure into context.
We agree with the Council’s conviction that the Raleigh BikeShare must be a transportation solution. For our citizens who use the bus system or park in remote decks, it makes that last mile to work shorter. For others, it offers an alternative to the hassle of congestion and parking for short trips. For those without cars, either by choice or by necessity, the Raleigh BikeShare opens doors across the city. Students from Peace and Shaw suddenly have time for lunch downtown. Young professionals and families in the Glenwood and Forest Hills neighborhoods no longer waste time circling Cameron Village parking lots. Stations on South Person and South Blount provide access across Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, opening yet another gateway to work and play in downtown Raleigh.
Finally, we reaffirm our commitment to making the Raleigh BikeShare accessible to citizens all across our city by addressing issues of location and cost. According to a 2013 publication in the Institute of Transportation Engineers Journal, bike programs that are most successful in low-income communities place stations in those communities, deploy targeted advertisements in those communities, recruit workers from those communities, and even work with local nonprofits to subsidize membership costs. The Raleigh BikeShare should strive to be equitable infrastructure; a moral bike sharing program cannot ignore those citizens who face some of the most challenging transportation problems. Nationally, bike shares have begun to help us rethink who bicycles are for. A 2011 study in Transportation Research points out that bike share users do not fit the profile of area cyclists. They are younger. They are more likely to be women. They have lower household incomes than private bike owners, and they are more likely to cycle for utility. Whether a bicycle offers relief from an unsustainable car payment or shortens the last mile, we insist that the Raleigh BikeShare can and must serve the needs of those citizens in Raleigh’s low-income communities. We look forward to working with invested members of the City Council and local partners to help increase accessibility by emphasizing the Raleigh BikeShare’s convenience and value.
The road to last week’s council decision has been long, but the journey is not over. If we want the Raleigh BikeShare to be successful, impactful, and equitable, we must all continue to contribute. Whether we are members of the Raleigh City Council, volunteers for Oaks and Spokes, or stakeholders with local partners, it is up to us to decide what the Raleigh BikeShare will be.
For the second installment of our Bike Share Interview series, Kristy Jackson and Jacob Clayton sat down with Drs. Keith Powell and Stanley Elliott of Shaw University. Dr. Elliott is the Vice President for Student Affairs at Shaw, while Dr. Powell is the Associate Vice President for Student Affairs. Student Affairs at Shaw is concerned with all aspects of student life that take place beyond the walls of the classroom, from housing to campus events to, of course, transportation. Our conversation with Drs. Powell and Elliott addressed everything from Shaw’s health and environmental initiatives to the historic university’s continuing importance in Raleigh’s rapidly changing downtown.
Interview #2: Drs. Keith Powell and Stanley Elliott, Shaw University
Powell said the Raleigh Bike Share could be a “great fit” for Shaw University, because they “have students coming from all over.” For students who aren’t from the greater Raleigh area, Powell suggested, the Raleigh Bike Share might be a means for greater exploration of downtown. While we mentioned the Raleigh Bike Share’s impact on student mobility in our interview with Kathryn Zeringue at North Carolina State University, Shaw’s smaller size and downtown location provide a different set of challenges. There is simply no room for more parking near the campus, and Powell says that most students don’t drive. According to officials at Shaw, less than one tenth of the university’s roughly 1,500 students have parking passes (1). For students and staff alike, the Raleigh Bike Share could increase mobility and provide an excellent opportunity to learn more about downtown businesses, events, and even professional opportunities.
The proposal for the Raleigh Bike Share also comes at an opportune time for the historically black university, which is kicking off a new preventative health program called “Know Your Vitals.” Powell pointed out that five of the most deadly health issues for African-Americans, including hypertension and diabetes, could, in many cases, be prevented by lifestyle changes. Their plan includes an increased focus on daily exercise, which the Raleigh Bike share could facilitate. In fact, a 2012 study in the American Journal of Public Health suggests that moderate increases in daily walking and bicycling could significantly reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease and diabetes(2). The largest barrier to student use, Powell suggested, was a lack of knowledge of bicycle-friendly routes around Raleigh. By pairing with community partners like Oaks and Spokes for guided rides and utilizing route maps provided at stations, that hurdle could be easily overcome.
Along with a tool for building healthy habits, Powell sees the Raleigh Bike Share as a step forward for the health of the planet. With Shaw University’s commitment to creating a greener, more eco-friendly campus, alternative transportation solutions like the Raleigh Bike Share are a great fit. Other cities, both nationally and internationally, already boast considerable carbon dioxide savings from their bike share programs. A 2008 report from the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia, for example, claims that the number of miles traveled by bicycle saved an annual 47,450 tons of carbon dioxide that would have otherwise been emitted by automobiles(3). Those savings don’t even account for environmental savings on parking lot construction and maintenance; a 2010 article in Environmental Research Letters estimated that the environmental impact of all parking spaces adds 10% to the CO2 emissions of the average automobile(4).
As we concluded, our conversation turned to the rapidly changing demographics of south and south-east Raleigh. With rising housing prices causing many long-time residents to move further from downtown, Shaw University’s surroundings are changing. Powell said that Shaw would be excited to have a Bike Share station on campus, because it offered a “good opportunity for cross-cultural exchange.” Many newer Raleigh residents don’t know much about the 150-year-old institution, and Powell sees a Bike Share station as an opportunity to bring people to the campus and raise awareness about Shaw University’s contributions to downtown Raleigh.
(1) More precisely, Dr. Powell informed us that there were 380 campus permits, 272 of which belonged to staff. Enrollment at Shaw is generally between 1,400 and 1,700 students each semester; that doesn’t include faculty and staff.
(2) Neil Maizlish et al. “Health cobenefits and transportation-related reductions in greenhouse gas emissions in the San Francisco Bay Area.” American Journal of Medicine 103, no.4 (2012). 10.2105/AJPH.2012.300939
(3) Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia. “Double Dutch: Bicycling Jumps in Philadelphia.” (2008). http://bicyclecoalition.org/our-campaigns/our-reports/#sthash.sxuSBstq.dpbs
(4) Mikhail Chester, Arpad Horvath, and Samer Madanat. “Parking infrastructure: energy, emissions, and automobile life-cycle environmental accounting.” Environmental Research Letters 5, no. 3 (2010). http://dx.doi.org.prox.lib.ncsu.edu/10.1088/1748-9326/5/3/034001
Jacob Clayton is a writer and instructor in the Department of English at North Carolina State University. A long-time member of Raleigh’s bicycle community, he’s happy to help write this interview series as an Oaks and Spokes volunteer.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll be interviewing some local leaders and transportation specialists to get their thoughts on the Raleigh Bike Share. These interviews aren’t an investigation into feasibility; we already know that Raleigh is a good fit for a bike share! Instead, these conversations give us the chance to get an in-depth look at what the bike share might mean for different parts of our community. For our first interview, Jacob Clayton, an Oaks and Spokes volunteer and lecturer in the English Department at NCSU, interviewed Kathryn Zeringue, NCSU’s Transportation Demand Manager.
INTERVIEW #1: Kathryn Zeringue
Kathryn Zeringue is the Transportation Demand Manager at North Carolina State University(1). As the TDM at NCSU, Zeringue promotes carpooling, vanpooling, walking, carsharing, ridesharing, and, of course, bicycling. Having lived in Raleigh, N.C., Blacksburg, Va. and the cycling hub of Austin, Texas, she knows a bit about transportation cycling. I sat down with Zeringue to talk about what the Raleigh Bike Share might mean for our community last Wednesday morning.
Zeringue currently lives in Durham, and she commutes to Raleigh every day by bus. Her bus drops her off on Hillsborough Street, at which point she walks a little over a mile to her office on Sullivan Drive. The practicality of the bike share is obvious to Zeringue; having a bicycle available on Hillsborough street would provide a “last mile solution,” effectively shortening many university employees’ commutes every morning.
NC State students also stand to benefit from the Raleigh Bike Share program, Zeringue argues. It could “give students a lot more choices” in terms of engaging with businesses and events downtown. Many NC State students don’t bring cars to campus, and the GoRaleigh bus system can be intimidating for students who aren’t familiar with public transit. As an instructor at NC State, I know first-hand how disconnected many first-year students feel from downtown, and, with dining and recreation facilities on campus, it’s easy for students to avoid the larger city entirely. The Raleigh Bike Share could be one step in establishing a corridor between students and Raleigh’s thriving downtown. Restaurants, museums, and arts venues get student business, and students get a chance to plug into Raleigh-based companies as they consider their professional futures.
The university has a long history of cooperating with the City of Raleigh to make the city and the campus friendlier to cyclists. NC State’s transportation planners face some unusual, jurisdiction-based challenges when adding to existing infrastructure, but, according to Zeringue, “most of the success [NC State has] had getting bike lanes in has been with the city of Raleigh.” With five bike share stations planned on NC State’s campus, the potential for future collaboration between the university and the city seems high. At this point, the university, like many of our community partners, seems to be waiting for the city to put forward a plan.
Zeringue also sees opportunities for bike share use during Raleigh’s lengthy festival season. During major festivals like Hopscotch, SparkCon and the Oaks and Spokes festival, commuters might be attracted to transportation alternatives that don’t require consulting transit schedules, fighting for parking spots, or detouring around closed-off streets. Other cities have already seen the mutually beneficial relationship between festivals and bike shares. Austin B-Cycle, for example, set their single-day record with 3,032 checkouts during the 2015 SXSW festival.
I closed out our interview by asking what advice NC State’s Transportation Demand Manager has for the Raleigh’s elected officials as they consider whether or not to support the bike share program. Our leadership should “[build] spaces for people, not for vehicles” and “understand the value in prioritizing transportation projects that promote community,” she said. “A bike share could do that.”
Remember, this is the first of a number of O&S Bike Share Interviews. Check back regularly for more discussions with leaders from all corners of our community!
(1) The opinions expressed in this interview are not intended to reflect institutional policies or commitments on the part of North Carolina State University.