Cities of all sizes now have bike share systems. But many of these systems often only have one or two types of bikes, and these may not be suitable for people with certain physical disabilities. We connected with Jon Terbush from bike share provider Zagster to find out how cities can create accessible bike shares.
Cat Johnson: What’s the importance of having adaptive bikes in a bikeshare system?
Jon Terbush: Adaptive bikes make bike shares more inclusive and equitable by opening access to those who would otherwise be unable to ride. They address a range of physical limitations — i.e. handcycles allow those with lower body impairments to power bikes with their upper bodies.
What are some examples of adaptive bikes that work well in bikeshares? Are there a few you suggest people start with?
At Zagster, we offer six forms of adaptive bikes: handcycles, side-by-side tandems, heavy-duty cruisers, tricycles, recumbent tricycles, and cargo tricycles. You can find more info and images of each here. Determining which variety to implement depends on the needs of each specific community. In general, handcycles and side-by-side tandems are the most common.
I understand that flexible bikeshare programs work well for adaptive bikes. Can you tell me more about that?
Traditional, dock-based bike shares use static hardware in which the locking technology is fixed inside the docks. This means the docks, as currently designed, can only interface with traditional cruiser bikes. As a result, systems using this model must establish separate programs to include adaptive bikes — programs that don’t directly integrate with the broader bike share. (For more info, here are the extra steps Portland had to take to include adaptive bikes.)
With flexible bike sharing, the locking technology is on the bike, usually in the form of a standard u-lock, enabling users to lock up to more nimble station infrastructure or, when on the go, to any fixed object. Because of this versatility, a broader range of bike types can be locked/unlocked and used by riders.
It seems that some of the decisions around adaptive bikeshare will depend on the community they serve. Do you have any best practices to help people determine the needs of their own communities?
We encourage our partners to consider adaptive bikes because of their powerful potential to unlock greater access to bike sharing. Ultimately, the decision to implement or not implement adaptive bikes must be made by the community based on their goals and needs. Just as we are the experts in bike sharing, our partners are the experts in their own communities.
Are there challenges unique to creating adaptive bikeshares? If so, how are they best addressed?
Adaptive bikes are generally more expensive to develop, build, and maintain. The bigger challenge, though, is awareness. Since the traditional bike share model does not allow direct integration with adaptive bikes, most people are not even aware adaptive bikes are possible in bike sharing.
Any suggestions on promoting and marketing an adaptive bikeshare?
Do it as part of — not in addition to — a broader bike share. The alternative results in a needlessly complex bike share — or rather, in a needlessly complex network or two parallel bike shares.
What other tips or insights can you offer for those who want to add adaptive bikes to their bikeshare program?
Talk to us. Zagster is the only bike-share provider currently offering seamless integration between cruiser bikes and adaptive bikes. We’ve launched programs with both cruisers and adaptive bikes in cities and on college campuses across North America, including a program in Westminster, Colorado, in which one-fifth of all the bikes are some form of accessible bike.
For more info on our accessible bikes, and on accessible biking in general, this article is a great resource.