Bike Share Programs

18 06 2010

I’ve known about bike share programs for sometime, but hadn’t really thought of them recently until I visited Menominee, a small town in Michigan’s upper peninsula. Menominee, population about 9,200, is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan; is has a nice marina and a small airport a few miles inland. I noticed bike racks full of yellow bikes and a few people riding them around town too. I learned that the city’s bike share program (they call it the Yellow Bike Program) has been in place for four years now. It was started completely by volunteers of the local Rotary Club and donated bikes in a effort to promote tourism. Today the program includes 47 bikes spread around the city at various community locations, such as the airport, marina, history museum and library.

One of the first bike share program in the US was started in Portland, OR in 1994. The program simply released bicycles into the city for unrestrictive use, but proved unsuccessful due to theft and vandalism. Other cities such as Madison, WI tried similar programs, but eventually modified to a more restrictive system requiring deposits for use of the bicycles. Washington DC instituted the first high-tech European style bike share program in the US in 2008, called SmartBike DC.
Montreal has the largest bike sharing program in North America, called Bixi. In 2009 the system had some 400 stations where bicycles can be rented with a credit card, there are over 5000 bicycles in the system. The system has had so much success that Washington DC/Arlington is also adopting the Bixi program, as well as Washington State University. This particular program offers varied pay scales from $5/day to $78/year. Pretty reasonable if you live or work in the city and have the need to use a bicycle. By the way, Menominee’s Yellow Bike program is completely free, you just need to show your drivers license and leave a phone number, the advantage of a small town.

There are many other bike share program in cities throughout the US, the Bike-sharing Blog has a lot of additional links and information if interested. Also, something to be aware of in the coming months,  Nashville has plans to start its own bike share program soon.

-Sara Putney

Yellow Bikes at Menominee Airport

Density as a Best Management Practice (BMP)

4 06 2010

High Point Neighborhood mentioned in Ped Shed Post
photo credit:

The Ped Shed, a blog focused on walkable urban design and sustainable placemaking by Laurence “L.J.” Aurbach, recently had a post about density as a best management practice (BMP). The post provides a good outline of the evolution of the stormwater regulatory environment. The main point of the post is that well intentioned stormwater regulations make it difficult to build dense walkable environments that ultimately exacerbate stormwater management issues.

The author states:

“But the universal and inflexible application of BMPs and LID can have significantly negative consequences on the quality of urban places and the health of watersheds. LID purports to encourage smart growth and urban redevelopment, but as a rule this support is nominal, little more than lip service. In general practice, LID puts urban density at a competitive disadvantage.”

He cites three studies, two by the EPA (Protecting Water Resources with Higher-Density Development, Using Smart Growth Techniques as Stormwater Best Management Practices) and one by Jacob and Lopez (Is Denser Greener? An evaluation of higher density development as an urban stormwater quality best management practice.) All of them provide compelling data as to the benefits of density with regard to stormwater run-off and pollutant loads, and are well worth reading.

I agree with him that when developing an urban vs suburban site, more expensive stormwater BMPs are typically utilized (i.e. underground detention, green roofs) to meet stormwater regulations.

However, site area, property costs, and market dynamics are a large factor in determining appropriate BMPs and cost effective solutions. If you can build significantly more square footage due to a better market environment and/or need to maximize your investment in land cost (which often reflects the market potential and property entitlements) then the cost of best management practices that maximize these potentials can be offset.

The examples of offsite mitigation are very intriguing. I wholeheartly agree that opportunities for this on properties in close proximity to the development is an effective way to mitigate stormwater impacts while spreading (and hopefuly lowering) the cost across multiple properties. In regard to infill developement, this can be very difficult in practices but not impossible. Public space can be designed to accommodate the needs of neighboring properties. Using green roofs, pervious pavements, and other BMPs on surrounding properties can greatly reduce the volume of runoff being diverted to these offsite areas and therefore their size  can be diminished to a point that can be integrated better into urban environments.

-Brian Phelps