Bikesharing programs have done quite a bit to help get more people on two wheels and reduce the use of fossil fuels in personal transportation, but there’s one aspect of many bikeshare initiatives that isn’t often considered, much less accounted for, which is the lack of accommodation for riders who can’t use conventional two-wheelers. To meet the needs of these differently-abled riders, non-conventional bikes are needed, such as tricycles, handcycles, or side-by-side tricycles, which enable those riders to take part in these low-carbon transportation programs.
A new bikeshare system in College Park, Maryland, has taken some steps to help make bikesharing more accessible, with the inclusion of five ‘accessible bikes’ in its fleet of 125 bicycles. The mBike program, which was made possible by a partnership between the city of College Park, the University of Maryland, and the bikesharing program operator Zagster.
Bikesharing systems can also be somewhat exclusive of those who don’t or can’t use digital payment methods, as well as those who don’t have a smartphone (as many of the systems rely on an app and electronic payments), so the mBike program seems to offer a bit more of a progressive and inclusive approach, as Zagster allows the use of text messages (instead of an app) to reserve bikes, although with only five accessible bikes, it’s still rather a small concession to those with different transport needs.
According to Mobility Lab, the Federal Transit Administration is encouraging the integration of bikeshare programs and other types of “mobility on demand” (MOD) with public transit, and includes “the need for ‘equity of service delivery’ to low-income communities, the aging population, and people with disabilities, including wheelchair users” in its guiding principles for its MOD funding program.
Author Carol Tyson writes,
“That should be the goal for every transportation program and service: to ensure access for all. I hope the notion that bikeshare can be available for different body types will spread. Our transportation options should reflect and serve the communities that we live in – and that means ensuring sidewalks, buses, trains, taxis, TNCs, and bikeshares are accessible to, and benefit, all of us.”
Find out more about College Park’s mBike at Zagster.