Part of the streets.mn and Nice Ride crowdsourcing project was to help identify “new tools and approaches” that Nice Ride should explore to make it easy for more people in Minnesota to choose active transportation. Until now, my thinking about this project has been solely about biking (which makes a certain amount of sense, since it is Nice Ride, after all!). But what if the focus shifted to a broader view of active transportation instead of the more narrow focus on just bikes? What if we included walking as part of the equation?
One idea I abandoned was about new kinds of bikes. We’re all familiar with the wonderful green upright comfort bikes, but what about people who feel more at ease on something more forward, like a road bike or even a mountain bike? Or people who would love to have access to a cargo bike? Unfortunately, I couldn’t come up with a round-trip or point-to-point scenario that worked without a really dense station grid, so I let this idea rest.
But then (as ideas are wont to do), it popped back into my head–what if people walked a short distance to a station that had a small number of dedicated cargo bikes (that were capable of docking exactly like the comfort bikes) and was located immediately adjacent to a place from which we all haul cargo? Let’s put a Nice Ride station with 3-5 cargo bikes in the parking lot of a grocery store! People who live within walking distance can walk there, do their grocery shopping, check out a bike to haul their groceries home, then return the bike and walk back home! Active transport!
This could be extended somewhat by using other modes to arrive at the grocery store (probably bus or LRT), but it would likely be limited to a relatively short distance (say, 3-5 mile round trip?).
It could also be extended by using something like a Bob trailer where the single wheel is what docks into the station and the front has an easy-to-use connection point that could connect to the comfort bikes. Modular.
Before I got too far into the cargo bike idea, another idea popped into my head and displaced the cargo bike with something a little faster. What if a gym or community center had a small fleet of “recreation” bikes (flat handlebars, narrower tires, maybe a seven-speed hub instead of three speeds, etc.) in the station in their parking lot and those bikes could be checked out by visitors to the gym? Riders could take a bike out on the adjacent trail, get their workout in, and return it back to the same station (load balancing!) and not have to use a stationary bike indoors!
So, maybe if there were more styles of Nice Ride bikes in addition to the comfort bike, people could be enticed to try biking!