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Cincinnati: Bicycling Developments and News

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I went up to Chicago earlier this week.  On Monday I went down to the world-famous Dearborn bike lane at 5pm to see how well it worked during the afternoon rush.

 

chicago-1-40_zpsb9ddfc7d.jpg

 

Dude riding in the wrong lane:

chicago-1-39_zps605b40b5.jpg

 

About to get hit by the left-turning car:

chicago-1-38_zps3a69d1fc.jpg

 

Tons of pedestrians waddling out into the bike lane hailing cabs and crossing the street mid-block:

chicago-1-37_zps91ff05ed.jpg

 

By comparison here's a biker on a parallel street that has no bike lanes:

chicago-1-26_zpsace733d9.jpg

 

Overall I sensed that this Dearborn Ave. bike lane was an incremental improvement, at least at rush hour, over riding in the street as it existed beforehand.  First of all it all looks so good in photos and works so simply in the mind but the reality is quite different.  The mind wants to believe that a bike lane in a downtown area works smoothly like a paved bike trail out in the corn fields, but there is all sorts of nonsense going on at the intersections and all sorts of stuff crossing the bike lane mid-block.  There are loud sounds in the distance like sirens and of course Chicago's famous elevated trains that are very serious distractions to anyone on a bike since our ears are so important to sensing what is going on around us.  Behavior within the bike lane itself by people on different types of bikes is rowdy.  And despite there being this 2-way bike path, I still saw hardcore bikers out in Dearborn St. ignoring it completely.   

 

Midday and on the weekends Chicago is a piece of cake to bike compared to Cincinnati.  The rush hour was not fun because of the sudden stops and having to wait at almost every intersection which is something that just plain doesn't happen here. 

 

 

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"Dude riding in the wrong lane"

 

Ok, but not really causing any problems.  Maybe he was pulling over for something?

 

"About to get hit by the left-turning car"

 

Except they weren't hit by the car, it's waiting like it's supposed to.

 

"Tons of pedestrians waddling out into the bike lane hailing cabs and crossing the street mid-block"

 

Not in your picture they aren't, they're all at the crosswalks going with the pedestrian signals. 

 

Sensationalize much Jake? 

 

Sure people do weird things everywhere.  Drivers make u-turns in the middle of a busy street, they double park, pedestrians wander aimlessly across the sidewalks, and cyclists weave around or ride the wrong way.  Nevertheless, I don't see anything in your pictures or writing to suggest any of the things you're complaining about are actual problems.  People jaywalk in Chicago all the time because it's easy, and if there's nobody in the bike lanes then let them waddle across.  If the bike lanes get busy enough for there to be conflicts, then pedestrians and motorists won't be so blasé, but I don't believe they are right now anyway, they're just working within the situation that exists.  In the same vein, if the bike lanes don't work for hard core cyclists, which is valid, then they have every right to use the rest of the street.  I know that's not the case in NYC, and I strongly disagree with their law that forces cyclists to use bike lanes if they're present, but that's not standard practice nor is it the case here either.

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In the same vein, if the bike lanes don't work for hard core cyclists, which is valid, then they have every right to use the rest of the street.  I know that's not the case in NYC, and I strongly disagree with their law that forces cyclists to use bike lanes if they're present, but that's not standard practice nor is it the case here either.

 

This is apparently the law in Oregon too.  I find it appalling.  Thank goodness it's not a law here. 

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I went up to Chicago earlier this week.  On Monday I went down to the world-famous Dearborn bike lane at 5pm to see how well it worked during the afternoon rush.

PHOTO

 

Dude riding in the wrong lane:

PHOTO

 

About to get hit by the left-turning car:

PHOTO

 

Tons of pedestrians waddling out into the bike lane hailing cabs and crossing the street mid-block:

PHOTO

By comparison here's a biker on a parallel street that has no bike lanes:

PHOT

 

Overall I sensed that this Dearborn Ave. bike lane was an incremental improvement, at least at rush hour, over riding in the street as it existed beforehand.  First of all it all looks so good in photos and works so simply in the mind but the reality is quite different.  The mind wants to believe that a bike lane in a downtown area works smoothly like a paved bike trail out in the corn fields, but there is all sorts of nonsense going on at the intersections and all sorts of stuff crossing the bike lane mid-block.  There are loud sounds in the distance like sirens and of course Chicago's famous elevated trains that are very serious distractions to anyone on a bike since our ears are so important to sensing what is going on around us.  Behavior within the bike lane itself by people on different types of bikes is rowdy.  And despite there being this 2-way bike path, I still saw hardcore bikers out in Dearborn St. ignoring it completely.   

 

Midday and on the weekends Chicago is a piece of cake to bike compared to Cincinnati.  The rush hour was not fun because of the sudden stops and having to wait at almost every intersection which is something that just plain doesn't happen here. 

 

I'm happy that both the DIVVY bikes and my own bicycle have bells on them.  You need them to do the Dearborn cycle track, particularly at rush hour, the pedestrians are the worst, though I think part of that is that they aren't used to it - add to that a lot of tourists to whom this is a completely foreign concept (and most tourists don't venture far beyond the Loop) - basically one giant cluster-f*.  There are painted signs on the street for them to look both ways, but I've found myself ringing my bell particularly when I'm going against auto traffic on that stretch just to remind pedestrians to look both ways.

 

Prior to this lane, forget about bicycling in Chicago at rush hour downtown, it was very unsafe, the roads are wide and the blocks are much larger than those in Cincinnati.  Plus you have a ton of TAXIs who have little regard for traffic laws and have a nasty habit of driving recklessly.  I still kind of wish they had an east/west equivalent to that track in the Loop.

 

My arguments against the lanes in CBD Cincinnati are really due to traffic patterns there - a bicycle is at parity with the rest of traffic which is a pretty amazing feeling particularly when I'm used to navigating the chaos of the Loop.

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Bicycling in the Loop is a little terrifying during rush hour.  Still, I did it in mixed traffic on a Divvy Bike and survived.  Bicycling in downtown Cincinnati is a breeze, even in mixed traffic at rush hour.  I have a speed bike, but I usually ride my clunky 1960s Schwinn to and from work and never have a problem riding with traffic.  I really don't think bike lanes are necessary on downtown Cincinnati streets.  The only few exceptions I can think of are Central Parkway North of Brighton because of the curves and high speeds (Protected is really necessary here), Liberty Street between Sycamore and Reading because of the hill (uphill bike lane only), and two-lane streets like Vine in OTR (not really necessary, but helpful for drivers to avoid confusion). 

 

The biggest problem is a holistic lack of knowledge regarding bicycle laws.  Drivers and bicyclists alike are clueless.  I'm glad to be seeing more bicycle commuters on the roads with me, but the vast majority of the people I see are riding illegally somehow (wrong direction, cruising through lights, stopping at a light in a turn lane when traveling forward) and it's really obnoxious to me because it only reinforces the drivers' expectations of erratic behavior from bicyclists.

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^-I've done it myself, but its not for the faint of heart - I almost got hit by taxi's a few times.

 

I'll agree with you about the cycle tracks.  On Liberty though I'd extend them throughout OTR as a traffic calming measure.  If you take a look at the plan the brewery district had a few years back you'll notice that they are hoping to have a full curb between the bike lanes and parking, which IMO is a great use of what is now an overwide street.

 

Finally lack of knowledge of bicycle laws is true anywhere just about.  I've seen way too many dumb hipsters on fixies run red lights across 4 lanes of heavy traffic, lots of people jogging in the bicycle lanes, or people salmoning (going backwards) all over the place.  I think this might be a broader culture issue maybe?

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The biggest problem is a holistic lack of knowledge regarding bicycle laws.  Drivers and bicyclists alike are clueless.  I'm glad to be seeing more bicycle commuters on the roads with me, but the vast majority of the people I see are riding illegally somehow (wrong direction, cruising through lights, stopping at a light in a turn lane when traveling forward) and it's really obnoxious to me because it only reinforces the drivers' expectations of erratic behavior from bicyclists.

 

Biking on the sidewalk and the wrong way have become my two biggest pet peeves. It makes bicyclists look bad if they can't follow the law. Also its just not good to bike on the sidewalk anyway. It is dangerous and discouraging to pedestrians.


“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking.”
-Friedrich Nietzsche

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^ I'm noticing it more and more downtown. Almost got hit by a Jimmy John's delivery guy as he was coming down the hill on Walnut just south of 4th.


"It's just fate, as usual, keeping its bargain and screwing us in the fine print..." - John Crichton

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Finally lack of knowledge of bicycle laws is true anywhere just about.  I've seen way too many dumb hipsters on fixies run red lights across 4 lanes of heavy traffic, lots of people jogging in the bicycle lanes, or people salmoning (going backwards) all over the place.  I think this might be a broader culture issue maybe?

 

I really think we need to push for drivers education every 10 years, just to give everyone a refresher on the laws.  Right now there are people on the roads who haven't seen the driver's manual in 50 years.  How many laws have changed since then?  If enough drivers are reminded of the actual laws it would inevitably get passed down to those without licenses.

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When people learn to drive, they should learn to ride & walk as well. Maybe double the hours needed to obtain a license.

Updating the drivers ed periodically makes sense, too. How often do we need to read news stories of old people ramming their cars into buildings & such...

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The bike debate is potentially not over

 

 

1

 

There are still attempts to prevent the city staff from beginning exploratory work on on-street bike lanes unless council votes to approve the research, planning, and design work first along with extensive community input. 

 

If implemented as stated above, It would be extremely tough for any on street bike lane to survive all this scrutiny

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Simply outrageous. Why should one of the most affordable, greenest, healthiest transportation modes be singled out for extra scrutiny? Why should public safety improvements face extra legislative hurdles? If this passes, we need to start thinking about a new ballot campaign. This stuff coming from Cranley and Mann is so backwards.

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Trouble in paradise:

 

I biked the world-famous Dearborn Ave. protected bike lane in Chicago last month, and it is hardly the promised land it's made out to be.  All sorts of pedestrians mindlessly drifting into the lane, then bad behavior by bicyclists of all sub-categories.  Biking in these lanes is like being a little kid holding onto the edge of the pool.  On a bike you're slinking along on the edge of the road, not out in the middle where you are visible and you have the best view of the whole situation. 

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Fortunately, a good chunk of where they want to put this on Central Parkway isn't so well populated.

 

That's the irony of the Central Parkway lane.  Nobody's ever driving on it, and even fewer will after the Hopple St. overpass is finished.  In fact there isn't heavy or chaotic traffic almost anywhere in this whole city.  I'd say the "worst" traffic in Cincinnati to bike in is on the western end of the Western Hills Viaduct. 

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The main reason I'm really supportive of the Central Parkway bike way is because cars speed on the parkway and make quick turns around curves. Without the separated bike lanes I don't feel comfortable. It isn't that there are too many cars, it's that the ones who are on it go too fast and risk killing me around curves when they aren't paying attention. At least with the separated bike lane they have to actually drive into a physically separated lane to hit me, greatly reducing the chances. They can't just not see me.

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The main reason I'm really supportive of the Central Parkway bike way is because cars speed on the parkway and make quick turns around curves. Without the separated bike lanes I don't feel comfortable. It isn't that there are too many cars, it's that the ones who are on it go too fast and risk killing me around curves when they aren't paying attention. At least with the separated bike lane they have to actually drive into a physically separated lane to hit me, greatly reducing the chances. They can't just not see me.

 

Even without the bike lanes, the fact that we are removing two traffic lanes will slow cars down naturally.

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That's the irony of the Central Parkway lane.  Nobody's ever driving on it, and even fewer will after the Hopple St. overpass is finished.  In fact there isn't heavy or chaotic traffic almost anywhere in this whole city.  I'd say the "worst" traffic in Cincinnati to bike in is on the western end of the Western Hills Viaduct.

 

jmecklenborg - What would you like to see done with Central Parkway? Do you like its current configuration or would you rather see the right-of-way used differently?

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That's the irony of the Central Parkway lane.  Nobody's ever driving on it, and even fewer will after the Hopple St. overpass is finished.  In fact there isn't heavy or chaotic traffic almost anywhere in this whole city.  I'd say the "worst" traffic in Cincinnati to bike in is on the western end of the Western Hills Viaduct.

 

jmecklenborg - What would you like to see done with Central Parkway? Do you like its current configuration or would you rather see the right-of-way used differently?

 

We never really heard a definitive answer as to why a paved bike path couldn't take the place of the west sidewalk between Ludlow Ave. and Marshall Ave.  There is absolutely nothing on that side of the street now for two miles with the exception of the city maintenance garage.  I have heard legal explanations that say they can't do it because it loses some sort of "park" status that is supported through state or federal grants, but I have never actually seen this in writing.  When Cranley asked the same question during the recent bike lane controversy it made me think that this restriction does in fact exist.  Cranley is fond of proposing alternatives that are not legally possible. 

 

Generally I'm not a fan of bike lanes along a curb and know from having biked on city streets without an accident for 25+ years that the safest place to ride a bicycle is in the exact middle of a street.  In the middle of the street you're the most visible and you have the best perspective for seeing what's going on with people pulling out of driveways and what people are doing at cross-streets.  I learned this with my friends when we were little when we used to dare each other to bike down the continuous center turn lane on Colerain Ave.  That turn lane was replaced by paved turnouts sometime in the early 2000s but that same sort of lanes still exists on the big radial avenues in Detroit.  When you visit Detroit you will see people driving motorized Rascal scooters in the center turn lane with traffic wizzing by them. 

 

Here's Detroit:

mack-ave_4145.jpg

 

Ideally these sorts of streets could be rebuilt with 2-way bike lanes in place of these continuous turn lanes and with a curb and landscaping protecting them from traffic.  There is of course the perfect opportunity to do this in Cincinnati south of Liberty St., but it's an academic argument now.  There was the opportunity to have the bike path drop briefly into the subway tunnel beneath Liberty St. and function as a bike underpass.  In a suburban implementation, or on one of those avenues in Detroit, they could build underpasses at the bigger intersections. 

 

 

 

 

 

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......... I think you are grossly underestimating the amount of utilities that would need to be moved, the weird accidents that would occur, the incredibly frustrating construction timeline, and the obscene costs that building a tunnel at Liberty Street would cause.

 

Also, a separated bike lane on Central Parkway will make this road a lot safer to ride on than riding in a shared lane like today (for the reasons mentioned in an earlier post today). I personally don't think bike lanes are necessary on most streets in OTR/Downtown because they are relatively slow moving (with the exception of Central Parkway, Liberty, Third/Second, and Reading).

 

I'm not arguing against a center bike lane in the street separated by landscaping, though. I think that would be comparable to side-based lanes in terms of safety. I also think that people would still forget to look for bicyclists in the center lane.

 

A friend of mine was just hit by a car last week while owning the street. Someone turned left immediately right in front of her and nearly killed her. Just because you are riding in shared traffic and make yourself visible doesn't mean people won't forget to look for you. She's lucky to be alive, honestly. So while anecdotally it seems to make sense that riding in shared traffic/in the center should make you safer, it is not necessarily the reality.

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Ideally these sorts of streets could be rebuilt with 2-way bike lanes in place of these continuous turn lanes and with a curb and landscaping protecting them from traffic.  There is of course the perfect opportunity to do this in Cincinnati south of Liberty St., but it's an academic argument now.  There was the opportunity to have the bike path drop briefly into the subway tunnel beneath Liberty St. and function as a bike underpass.  In a suburban implementation, or on one of those avenues in Detroit, they could build underpasses at the bigger intersections. 

 

Jake, I'm right there with you in riding in the center of the lane.  I HATE riding next to the curb.  I appreciate your though process here, but I've ridden in the exact configuration you described on Hennepin Ave in Minneapolis.  It was a disaster.  Cars were flying by in both directions and they were going dangerously fast.  It was bike lane syndrome on steroids.  The only way to make Central Parkway safe for cyclists is to slow down traffic.  That's the point of removing the lanes.  A shared use path could've worked in this place, but I think we had a grant for cycletracks that couldn't work for shared-use paths.

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I don't think there's a good excuse *not* to do bike lanes on wide streets that get very little traffic, even though there is little traffic on them to begin with (i.e. Bank St.).  Central Parkway will soon move from having medium levels of traffic to nearly zero. After the Hopple overpass is finished, and if the I-74 ramp is removed near Cincinnati State (I mean the inbound ramp where many people cheat and either pull an illegal U to Ludlow or turn onto Clifton Hills to cut through to Ludlow) most traffic on the parkway will come from the Western Hills Viaduct, and that won't be very much. 

 

Also Central Parkway is a fairly interesting ride form Northside to Downtown.  These is some variety in the streetscape and a few interesting features like the Brighton Bridge and the unused subway tunnel portals.  No it's not the most interesting streetscape in the world but it beats the hell out of anything in Detroit or a typical Chicago neighborhood avenue.  That's why I like to make the point that more bike lanes and bike share won't make this city a more interesting place to ride a bicycle.  Cincinnati already has all these topographical features and varied street layouts that most American cities don't have. 

 

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Bike lanes and bike share aren't supposed to make the city "a more interesting place to ride a bike."  They're to give people safer places to ride, and to give residents and visitors alike a chance to ride bikes without having to worry about buying one and storing it somewhere. 

 

As far as bike lanes versus cycle tracks versus side paths, etc., the fact of the matter is that vehicular cycling (ride in the middle of the traffic lane) simply does not work for anyone but the fearless, and the fearless make up only low single-digit percentages of the population.  Bike lanes help a little bit, but because of the way they dump into the traffic lanes at intersections and the careless ways they end they still cater to the mostly fearless crowd.  To appreciably increase mode share, a little paint simply won't cut it.  Think about it like this, would you ask your 8 year old daughter or 80 year old grandfather to ride down Vine street (which I agree along with most downtown and OTR streets are pretty easily ridable, but then I'm one of the fearless types), Central Parkway, or Liberty?  If not, then the cycling facilities on those streets are inadequate, and only a few people will bother.   

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I rented one of the bikeshare bikes in Nashville this past weekend.  If you are familiar with downtown Nashville, it has no big hills, but rather many sharp block-long hills with 10%~ grades.  Very similar to the uptown area of Cincinnati, where bikeshare phase 2 is contemplated.

 

In short it's just plain not working because the bikes are too damn heavy and awkward.  The poor handling is caused in part by pedals that turn on a very tight radius compared to any ordinary bike -- reminded me of other bad bikes I've rented in tourist areas.  I couldn't believe how tired I was after climbing these extremely minor hills (something like the Jefferson Ave. hill in front of BP).     

 

 

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^ I admit I'm a bit skeptical of how the bikeshare will work for Uptown, for the reasons you state. I think the basin, NKY, Northside, and Clifton (not CUF "Clifton") would be good spots. Include Camp Washington, pending some study.

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^ I admit I'm a bit skeptical of how the bikeshare will work for Uptown, for the reasons you state. I think the basin, NKY, Northside, and Clifton (not CUF "Clifton") would be good spots. Include Camp Washington, pending some study.

 

They will almost operate as two separate bike share systems. Very few people will rent a bike downtown and return it uptown. A few people may do the reverse and bus it back up the hill.

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I'm saying within the uptown area it's going to be hard as hell to bike with these bikes.  For example where McMillan dips to Vine at the Mad Frog then climbs up to Auburn.  No big deal on a regular bike, but on these 35 pound bike share bikes it's like biking with a pair of 10-pound bowling balls tied to each ankle.  Those hills from third to fourth street downtown are going to suck too.  Maybe we should be waiting this out until someone starts making carbon fiber bike share bikes. 

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I'm saying within the uptown area it's going to be hard as hell to bike with these bikes.  For example where McMillan dips to Vine at the Mad Frog then climbs up to Auburn.  No big deal on a regular bike, but on these 35 pound bike share bikes it's like biking with a pair of 10-pound bowling balls tied to each ankle.  Those hills from third to fourth street downtown are going to suck too.  Maybe we should be waiting this out until someone starts making carbon fiber bike share bikes. 

 

Right. This is my main concern about bikeshare in Uptown; not that it won't integrate with the Downtown portion, but that it will not be very appealing to use for the target audience (casual riders). I share far less concern about the 3rd/4th Street hill, though.

 

A separate but lesser concern is that there will be a significant Uptown-to-Downtown one-way flow of bikes which will amount to extra operational costs to keep the Uptown racks stocked.

 

I definitely recognize the idea of them being somewhat separate systems. When I talk about Northside and Clifton being good places, I imagine those two neighborhoods having practically a system of their own, with a bit of Northside<->OTR/CBD traffic to round things out. But especially since the Uptown part isn't essential for the basin part to work as a system, I think it's a mistake to begin them both together. Rather, I would start in the basin (where success has fewer obstacles) and try to get NKY on board and, when that proves to be a great success, try Uptown.

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I'm saying within the uptown area it's going to be hard as hell to bike with these bikes.  For example where McMillan dips to Vine at the Mad Frog then climbs up to Auburn.  No big deal on a regular bike, but on these 35 pound bike share bikes it's like biking with a pair of 10-pound bowling balls tied to each ankle.  Those hills from third to fourth street downtown are going to suck too.  Maybe we should be waiting this out until someone starts making carbon fiber bike share bikes. 

 

The ones in Columbus are at least 50 pounds if not 75. I didn't really think about the possibility of stubby 155mm cranks off of a 20" girls bike being fitted to these. That's lame. They're probably afraid of people eating it because their pedal scraped the ground while they were turning.

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I don't know how heavy they are.  You're right the bikeshare bikes might be 50 pounds.  I'm not an expert on bicycles themselves and take virtually no interest in their specs.  I just know immediately the difference between a crap bike and a great bike, and these bikeshare bikes are crap.  And they cost twice as much as fantastic commuter bikes, if the $1,000 costs I've heard is correct. 

 

Everyone who is defending these bikes is a casual rider with a retro 1970s bike and hasn't ridden a nice modern commuter or hybrid bike, typically one with an aluminum frame.  They've also probably never ridden a high-end carbon fiber frame bike with high-end components.  Biking on a carbon road bike is like being the puck on an air hockey table, these bikeshare bikes is like walking around with muddy boots. 

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I don't know.  I've seen the bikeshare bikes in three cities and they were pretty much all the same step-thru design, with hand brakes.  I'd bet that the step-thru design is responsible for a lot of the weight. 

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I wonder why cities with bike shares, such as what Cincinnati is getting, prefer those heavy and awful models? Why can't an "out of the box" solution be used instead? Many companies offer "town/city" bikes for less than $1,000 each and they weigh far less than 50 lb.

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Perhaps carbon prices will drop enough in the next few years that carbon will be practical.  But I really don't think that the step-thru design is necessary.  If you aren't in good enough shape to swing your leg over a bar, you probably aren't in good enough shape to be bicycling to begin with. 

 

The other part of these bikes I don't like is how the weight is concentrated right below your seat, which is great for stability when going straight, but then the bike feels "floppy" when making a turn.  It reminds me of riding a big wheel when I was a kid.  Those things were hard to turn because you couldn't lean into the turn.  There's something about the bike share bikes, because you ride so upright, that makes it tough to lean into a turn. It's a dangerous situation and isn't going to bring new people into biking. 

 

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The step-through design has nothing to do with fitness, it's nominally about modesty (though not many women wearing skirts or dresses are going to be riding a bike anyway), but mostly so the rider doesn't rip their pants.  Since they're also deployed in busy urban areas, it also minimizes the chances of kicking some wayward pedestrian in the face when mounting or dismounting the bike. 

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I wonder why cities with bike shares, such as what Cincinnati is getting, prefer those heavy and awful models? Why can't an "out of the box" solution be used instead? Many companies offer "town/city" bikes for less than $1,000 each and they weigh far less than 50 lb.

 

Theft deterrence.  The parts on a bikeshare bike are heavy and incompatible with standard bikes so that there's no value in stealing one.

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https://broward.bcycle.com/about/bknowledgefaqs.aspx

 

Cincinnati's contract is with B-bycle.  They appear to be the same bikes that Nashville has, which are the ones I just rode last weekend.  According to their site the bikes weigh 45 lbs.  I have an aluminum/carbon fork commuter bike (Specialized Globe Expert) from 2007 that weighs (I just looked it up) 27.5 pounds.  I paid $450 for it.

 

This bike is pretty similar to the one I have, but without the lights or fenders or any of that:

 

What's amazing is to look at what Specialized did to their "Globe" line since 2009 -- they scrapped form following new technology and turned it into a retro line.  So the market no doubt has shifted gigantically into retro-style bikes.  When I was a kid, the first thing you did if you got a new bike was to take off the chain guard and fenders.  If you were seen riding a bike with either, you got punched and the bike was probably thrown in the creek.

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