A quick Google search yields no fewer than six bicycle rental shops with addresses in Phoenix, expanding the search to include neighboring cities brings the total to a couple dozen shops.

Considering the reviews these businesses have on the ratings website Yelp, people appear to be satisfied with the services they offer. However, if the city of Phoenix moves forward with its plan to implement a government-created bike-share program, it would probably behoove the employees of those shops to start looking for work in a different industry.

A government bike-share program, city officials argue, would be an environmentally-friendly way to reduce congestion. And, given today’s anemic economic recovery, the city of Phoenix suggests taxpayers “could” potentially not be burdened with bankrolling the idea. Toward that end, the city has expressed its intent to have private institutions submit bids to run a bike-share program with only minimal government oversight. A 100 percent privately-funded program is not likely, though, given the city’s own report, which cited 11 model cities that currently have bike-share programs — none operate without the benefit of taxpayer subsidies.

Are potential users of government bicycles not already riding bicycles because they lack a subsidy or the blessing of local government? Not likely. Consider the most recent survey of bike-share users from a similar program in Washington, D.C. According to Capital Bikeshare’s own statistics, 95 percent of its regular patrons have college degrees, and 53 percent have a master’s or doctorate. Absolutely none of the users have only a high school diploma and only 7 percent make less than $25,000 a year.

Capital Bike Share’s studies have concluded its users tend to be young, white, highly-educated males. Another bike-share program in St. Paul, Minn., boasts nearly identical demographic trends. All of this data begs the question: “Should the city of Phoenix be exhausting precious time and resources on an exotic government service for the affluent?”

Furthermore, should Phoenix go the way of the 11 other cities with bike-share programs and be forced to provide taxpayer subsidies, is Phoenix in a position financially to expand recreational services at a time when its pension funds are underfunded by $2 billion? If City Hall has money to burn, perhaps we should first consider retiring the 2-cent food tax that disproportionately impacts low-income families, or restore the 15 percent budget cut to the city’s police force.

Subsidies or not, Phoenix’s proposed bike-share program would arbitrarily pick the winners and losers in an emerging competitive market. Homegrown businesses will suddenly be faced with a decision to either compete with a government-backed monopoly or close shop. Given all the uncertainty of today’s economic climate, don’t we owe our intrepid entrepreneurs a little more deference and a little less gambling? Mayor Greg Stanton recently made headlines when he went on a “food stamp diet” to publicize perceived inadequacies of that federal program. Why then would he pursue a policy that would likely add a few more citizens to the food stamp rolls?

• A Phoenix native, Dan Jones is a graduate of Arizona State University and, as a Fulbright Scholar, is currently in Malaysia continuing his studies.

(4) comments

mockingbird

Perhaps you should have learned more about what a bike sharing program is before writing an article about it.

Bike share programs and bike rentals from a bike shop are two different things. Bike sharing (which, by the way, is not free) is considered a form of public transportation. In Phoenix, it will be used as a connection to and from the light rail and for short trips and bike docking stations will be placed accordingly. Typically, bike sharing connects the first and last mile of a commute. Bike rental from a store, on the other hand, is meant for long, leisurely rides.

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2012/10/bike-share/

Also, cities have realized that the bike sharing systems have not been reaching out to underrepresented communities and are working to change that.

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/17321/bike-sharing-systems-push-to-reach-underrepresented-groups/

Bike sharing is everywhere now and has proven to be extremely successful and popular. It's time for Phoenix to get on board and move forward instead of always lagging behind.


Rossi

Did you bother to contact one of the local bike shops to see if they believe a bike share program would threaten their business? I suspect not. As the previous commenter noted, such programs provide an alternative form of public transportation, a form of public transportion that is environmentally friendly, provides health benefits, and is attractive to young professionals. By the way, attracting young professionals just might be be good for the local economy.

Vintage Velo

This article is so full of misinformation, that none of it can be considered truth. As of a year ago, there were 30 bike share systems in the United States (not 11 as the author states). More have opened in the last year, 18 more are scheduled to open in 2013 and 6 more have plans for opening in 2014. Bike share has proven to be incredibly successful and the Phoenix bike share program will provide a way to serve more than rich white males. This bike share program will be an economical form of transportation and will also allow more people to get to and from the light rail. There are also many different types of funding for a bike share program. Perhaps you should have done your homework.

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/08/19/708941/us-hits-30-bike-shares-in-just-four-years/?mobile=nc

http://www.wnyc.org/blogs/transportation-nation/2013/apr/22/map-which-cities-will-launch-bike-share-2013/

exit2lef

This seems more like a rigid ideological position take from the Goldwater Institute playbook than the type of critical thinking I'd expect from a Fulbright Scholar. As others have noted, bike share and bike rental are not the same. Bike share expands the accessible radius around rail transit stations and urban centers by enabling casual bike trips of short duration. Bike rental, on the other hand, is designed more for full-day or multi-day use -- either by visitors or by bicyclists whose own bikes are being repaired.

A successful bike share program may cultivate more bike rentals and purchases by increasing the overall awareness of bicycling as a viable mode of transport. If young, highly educated males have been some of the most enthusiastic users of bike share in other cities, it may because they are often early adopters of new products and services. Nevertheless, a successful bike share program has potential benefits for all and should be evaluated based on actual results rather than ideology.

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