Here’s an idea I had as part of the conversation during the Nice Ride crowdsource kickoff meeting. What would an existing bicycle ridership map look like superimposed over a Nice Ride station map?
Here are the two maps I was using. The first is from a Federal study showing a ridership model (based on bike counts from 2010, so that’s already kind of stupid). And the other one is from one of the Nice Ride talks (data is pretty current).
Here’s what the two maps look like, zooming into Minneapolis’ midsection:
Here’s my crude (non-GIS) mashup of the data:
You begin to see a few areas where it might make sense for Nice Ride expansion. (More on that below.)
The initial caveat about this is that existing bicyclists and Nice Ride users might not be the same groups of people. From what I’ve heard about Nice Ride patterns so far, it seems like they’re often not. If you own a bike, why use a bike share?
Instead, land use, density, and car ownership rates are big drivers. And there are somewhat conflicting narratives about whether station density is a big factor.
That makes placing Nice Ride stations in places without density, dominated by single-family homes, and with high car ownership, a dicey proposition. But that describes most of Minneapolis and Saint Paul.
That said, if you’re going to expand Nice Ride stations somewhere into new less-dense areas, the places with high levels of existing bicycle ridership seems like a great place to start. In these areas, you likely already have decent bike infrastructure. And, I’d argue just as importantly, a culture of bicycling has begun to take hold where local businesses, drivers, and people in the neighborhood have already started to see bicycling as a legitimate activity (and not something for a slim minority).
Here’s my rough guess about the places with high existing ridership but low or no Nice Ride stations:
The problem is, of course, that these are (in general) the wealthier parts of Minneapolis. (Northeast is a possible exception.) To follow the existing trends would be to reify the already problematic class and race divides that persist around bicycling. For example, if Nice Ride expanded Southward, but skipped the Central, Bryant, Powerderhorn, and Phillips neighborhoods (in the middle of South Minneapolis), I dare say there would be some upset people.
And rightfully so, because one problem with existing bicycle usage rates is that (I feel) they tend to discount certain kinds of bicycle usage in favor of others. Counts are done during commuting hours, and in spaces and places that favor particular riding patterns (existing bike trails, lanes, commuter rather than neighborhood paths, etc.). There are many people riding bicycles around the city that aren’t conforming to those patterns.
So that’s the tension that Nice Ride has to deal with!
Recommendation: From this rough mashup, I’d propose that, if Nice Ride were to meaningfully expand its existing footprint in Minneapolis, they choose Northeast Minneapolis or the Chain of Lakes / Minnehaha Creek area. These places seem to offer a balance of users, groups, and bike infrastructure that might allow the system to expand without creating many new geographic or ridership problems.
Questions: The bicycle ridership model data is old. Would a 2015 ridership map look different? And this is a crude attempt; if someone did an actual GIS analysis of this data, what might it say?
NOTE: There are many other angles to think about. Feel free to get your hands dirty by looking at some stations or poking through the data yourself. If you’d like to participate in the crowdsourcing project, and try to answer one of Nice Ride’s big questions, email me or simply dive in to the data.