Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Tour de GREENbike in Salt Lake City

GREENbike is sponsored by Rio Tinto Mining and SelectHealth.
Public bike sharing has gotten a lot of attention as of late. Much of the recent activity is due to the launch of the New York City system, known as Citibike, which instantly became the largest system in the U.S. upon opening. While the size and impact of Citibike will likely change the landscape for bike sharing in this country, there are other, smaller systems that deserve credit for pioneering the concept, especially in places that are far more car-dependent and less dense than NYC. One of these is the GREENbike system in Salt Lake City, which opened a couple of months ago.

A GREENbike station kiosk.

While, at 10 stations, SLC's system is considerably smaller than the 300+ stations in NYC, it is an important step toward changing the way people perceive of transportation in a sprawling western locale. Utah is a great place to ride a bike, but as in many of the states in the region, residents seemingly mentally associate biking within a recreational sphere of activity, more so than for daily transportation. It is a goal of SLC Bike Share, the non-profit owner and operator of GREENbike to promote bicycle use for short utilitarian trips.

Not a traditional bike rental; prices are structured to encourage short-term use and turnover to other riders. It's simple to do a quick check-in and re-check out in the event that you're running out of time and want to keep the bike longer.
The green paint of the bikes is bright and vibrant.
I visited SLC for a conference and made it an objective to try GREENbike. During a lunch break, I completed what may be the first of what I'll call the Tour de GREENbike, similar to the Tour de B-cycle challenge ride that I completed in Denver during the initial year of Denver B-cycle. The Tour de B-cycle in Denver is a self-supported and self-initiated challenge ride to check out, ride and dock a bike at each station in the system, starting and ending at the same station. Check out. Ride. Dock. Repeat.

Map of the SLC GREENbike system.
After an initial setup through the kiosk interface at a station, my Denver B-cycle membership card worked flawlessly at GREENbike stations; reciprocity of use at any B-cycle-sourced system is a great advantage to annual membership. I rode the Tour de GREENbike in the same way that I rode the Tour de B-cycle in Denver, making my way to each of the stations successively, ending where I began. I don't know if or how SLC Bike Share tracks a Tour of their system, which they likely do not as I don't know if it has occurred to them to promote the challenge, but until otherwise I will stake claim to having done the circuit first. In the case that I was not the first to complete the Tour de GREENbike, I am willing to bet that I was the first to complete the circuit wearing a suit and tie.
Yes, that's me in a suit and tie. I had to present a paper at a conference about an hour after this photo.
I started out on GREENbike number 006, but migrated to several others throughout the ride.
I completed the ride on a sunny day of 77F degrees in about an hour, taking time to explore the city a bit, and to catalog some notable bike infrastructure I encountered along the way. It had been several years since I had last visited SLC, and I'd never ridden a bike there, so it was a great way to experience the city.

Painted bike routes were on several streets downtown. This is something that could very well be done in Denver to direct bicyclists along preferred routes.
This appeared to be a bike box designated to help bicyclists turn left, however I was confused a bit by the location of its placement on the street. It had been only recently applied and perhaps it was oriented incorrectly.
This GREENbike station was placed in former on-street car parking spaces and adjacent to a bike lane. This type of outlay could open up some possibilities in several Denver neighborhoods, but as yet has not been implemented in Denver.
This bike shop was actively promoting GREENbike. A rising tide floats all boats, as they say.
I found that much of the area in which SLC's GREENbike stations are located is well-supported through bicycle infrastructure, though there are a few streets that need improvement or where the traffic volume or speed is too high to be comfortable for the key demographic group of "interested but concerned" riders.

I could tell that much of the bike infrastructure was new or recently installed, so it is likely that SLC has made a lot of advancement to support GREENbike and a growing bike culture. Gleaming bike racks were in abundance, as were people riding. I saw evidence of a thriving bike culture not only in tattooed hipsters on fixies and kitted-out mamils, but more importantly, in family groups with kids riding down well-marked lanes, and casually dressed people on three-speeds with baskets of groceries. Fairly impressive.

I finished my circuit of the Tour de GREENbike and celebrated with a bahn mi sandwich from a food truck in a park buzzing with activity. I'm not familiar with the recent history of bicycling in SLC, but it would appear as though the addition of GREENbike and other improvements is aiming the trajectory of biking toward a brighter future.
Me at the finish line, much better prepared for my presentation after some time on a bike.
Having a bahn mi sandwich in a park following a ride is a great recipe for lunch.

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