It was going to drop to single digits so it was time to get out and ride. That’s what you were thinking too? Great minds. It stuck me as odd when perusing the Bixi Montreal site (that’s the Canadian equivalent of our Pittsburgh Bike Share program) to find out they close up shop for the winter. I guess winter in Canada would be a little worse than here in the “South of Canada” but that got me wondering. When does Pittsburgh Bike Share go into hibernation? Well, it doesn’t.
David White, executive director for Pittsburgh Bike Share said that for winter operations, they reduce their fleet from 500 bicycles down to 300 in late December. They perform a complete overhaul on every bicycle and increase their maintenance routine and with a smaller number of bicycles.
“A tremendous benefit to the smart bike system is the ability of our customers to use our mobile app ‘nextbike’ to report any mechanical issue with a specific bicycle,” White said. “We encourage our riders to supply as much feedback as possible and we’ve been happy to go pick up bikes with mechanical issues that we’ve been made aware of.”
Pittsburgh Bike Share kicked off last June and the data they share on their website lists over 40,000 rides in the program’s first three months. It dips to just over 16,000 when the weather gets cold through the fourth quarter but that is still pretty good. Pittsburgh experienced mild winter weather up until the second week of February. Now that winter has come to Pittsburgh in earnest, ridership has dwindled but not gone into hibernation.
“We have had some mild weather this winter and a couple stretches of very cold temperatures. During the warmer days we’ve seen as many as 300 trips in a single day on our bicycles. That is very encouraging and shows that Pittsburghers are committed to getting outside and using a bike for their daily commutes. On the colder days we see our trips decline. That is expected. People just don’t leave the house as much on days when its 7 degrees,” White said.
I went this past Wednesday to give the system a shot in close to zero wind chills. I have never used the system or signed up as a user before that February 10th. I set up an account and unlocked a bike from the corral with my phone in about three minutes. I did have to use a stick to clear the ice from the keypad just to see the display. The app designed by nextbike makes it so you don’t even need to see the screen anyway.
I just punched in the number from the bike (after scraping the ice away to read it) pulled and I was gone. I rode around Oakland for a good half-hour before my fingers were numb then, returned the bike back to the corral. The protected bike lanes around Phipps were cleared of the previous day’s snowfall. I did notice that only three bikes seem to be at the stations around town now that the weather has changed. That must keep the rest of the bikes inside sipping hot cocoa.
“Although our numbers are lower in the winter, and we will evaluate the costs of shutting down and storing equipment after we get through this winter, we are committed to providing a reliable alternative for transportation in Pittsburgh,” White said. “I believe that if we can demonstrate to the public that the bicycles will be there and that they will be reliably functional throughout the year, we’ll start seeing increases in the number of people who choose to make a bike ride a part of their everyday routine.”
So, to warm you up get out and ride. It’s pretty easy and painless (except for the frostbite). And, just in time for Valentine’s Day, Pittsburgh Bike Share is offering a two-for-the-price-of-one deal for lovers and everybody else this February 14th.
#BikeShareLove is in the frigid air I guess.