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