Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bike Sharing & the Price of Peanut Butter

The increasing popularity of urban “bike share” programs have come with some unanticipated growing pains. According to this report by Andrea Bernstein on Marketplace, “70,000 tourists and other casual users signed up the first year -- dwarfing the 15,000 yearly members.”

While this is certainly encouraging to bicycle proponents it has exposed a few problems with the system. In July for example, bike stations throughout the city were empty 9,000 times. This of course meant that other bike stations throughout the city had too many bikes and so naturally,“there were 5,000 incidences where stations were completely full, so cyclists couldn't return their bikes.”

There are 1,100 bikes in the DC system spread over 110 stations.

Sometimes a random event exacerbates the situation. During the earthquake last month, when the cars and buses ground to halt and the Metro trains were full, Capital Bikeshare had its biggest day. The bike stations in downtown were emptied almost as fast as the neighborhood bike stations rapidly filled.

“Almost every city that's tried bike share has experienced some version of that phenomenon. In London, suburbanites take the train part way and then bike for the rest of their trips. All the bikes end up in the center of town. In Barcelona cyclists go downhill, but not up.”

Nobody likes peddling uphill except maybe Alberto Contador.

The same program also had some advice for peanut butter lovers. You'd better stock up now. According to this report by Kai Ryssdal, “The USDA says the drought in the south is going to trip the 2011 peanut harvest 13 percent.”

“JM Smucker — which makes Jif and, by itself, accounts for almost half the peanut butter market in this country — says prices will go up 30 percent by the end of the year.”

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