With the ongoing pandemic, the normal fare for this blog has been shut down. So we’re branching out into a new kind of content: an interview with Mary Pustejovsky, Board Member of the Red Line Parkway Initiative, former Board Member of AURA, and Someone who Bikes for Transportation and Loves to See Other People Do It Too. This is the first interview I’ve done for the blog and I failed to get my audio equipment working, so the below is from my notes. All apologies to both Mary and my readers for anything I mess up!
Today’s post is a guest post from friend-of-the-blog John Laycock. He has allowed us to reprint a letter he sent to city staff and City Council.
I am writing to let you know how great the dockless pilot has been for me. I live at the MLK transit-oriented development (District 1), by the MLK Red Line station, and I don’t own a car. I have a mild disability that limits how far I can walk; I can regular bike, but anything more than a small hill is challenging to me. I am accustomed to and comfortable to using the train, the bus, my feet, my own bike, and B-Cycle, but I can say that Jump e-bikes have already changed my life by improving my mobility options. The train is a really good way to get around. But the train has limited hours – it’s easy for me to get downtown or to my job when it’s running, and much more difficult when it’s not. I’m still fairly close to both UT and downtown; the dockless e-bikes are great because they make a trip of 2-3 miles very convenient.
The e-bikes also solve the last mile problem with transit. This is a well-known issue, and I just want to give a few examples: yesterday, I wanted to go to One Texas Center. I took the train to downtown station, and was literally all but the last mile there. I’ve done this many times, and there are four ways to get that last mile: 1) walk 2) walk to 4th and Guadalupe and transfer to the bus; 3) B-cycle, 4) Ride Share. The e-bike is faster than all of them: cheaper than rideshare, easier, faster, and more comfortable than the other three options. There’s really no comparison.
Another example is I was at 30th and Guadalupe trying to get home to 1601 Miriam. It’s just under 3 miles, but a difficult journey. Too far to walk, and awkward to bus. (Half mile to and from the 20 or take the 1 and transfer to the 18, and 1/3 mi walk). An e-bike was much better: about an 18 minute ride with no wait and door to door service. There are hills on Dean Keeton, but the e-assist made it easy to traverse them. The dockless e-bike took a trip that was a huge challenge and made it almost as easy as a car ride.
Some other observations:
- I could buy my own e-bike, but it’s really nice to not have to be responsible for a bike all day, especially since I’m using a variety of other modes, like the bus, the train, and rideshare.
- I have yet to see any dockless vehicles left in such a way as to impede a wheelchair. I see other obstacles on a daily basis. I’ve been wheelchair bound before, so I’m sensitive to the issue.
- There’s a family in my neighborhood with a ten year old girl; she’s just starting to learn to ride her bike. Her dad doesn’t own a bike, so he’s been renting dockless bikes so he can ride with her and help her to learn. It’s really cute, and a totally unexpected consequence of having dockless bikes. I’ve also seen parents and kids riding e-bikes together downtown.
- I love the Third Street protected bike lane and I’ve seen a lot of scooters and e-bikes on it in addition to regular bikes. It’s great, but there needs to be an equivalent north-south protected lane.
Anyway, I’m sure there will be snags, but I see the dockless vehicles as a huge boon to mobility in the city. And not just for the people who ride them: imagine going to an event at the Long Center; you might not take a scooter or a Jump Bike, but every family that does frees up one more parking space for you.
I would ask that you continue the dockless pilot, expand the study area, and work with the companies to troubleshoot what problems come up. In the long term, please continue to invest in infrastructure solutions that accommodate non-car modes. Implement the Austin bike plan: it will help both cyclists and dockless users. If necessary, free up additional right of way downtown for cyclists and dockless. And finally, promote them; be excited: this could be a mobility revolution. It has already transformed my life; it could transform the city’s if you let it.
Thank you for your consideration.