Bike sharing programs have become a popular method of transportation within many metropolitan areas in the country over the past couple of decades.
Could Jacksonville be the next major city to initiate such a program?
The Early Efforts
The simple answer to this question would be “yes”, as the city started looking into the possibility back in 2013.
The extent of this effort involved preliminary plans to place a bike sharing kiosk at Unity Plaza, back when this project in the process of being built. This would have been part of a partnership with Jacksonville Transportation Authority; thirty other kiosks were planned throughout the Riverside area.
The JTA also experimented with allowing bikes on the Skyway path during weekends, a move that would have theoretically made the bike sharing service much more useful.
Ultimately, the bike sharing aspect of the Unity Plaza development did not get developed, nor did any of the proposed Riverside bike stations. Since then, aside from the occasional discussion during city meetings, not much progress has been made in the effort to bring bike sharing to Jacksonville.
So while it hasn’t happened yet, could a bike sharing program actually work in Jax?
The issues here are two-fold. First and foremost, Jacksonville has never been regarded as much of a biking city. Due to its massive size and spread-out nature, it’s usually much simpler to get from Point A to Point B by driving.
Additionally, many major streets in Jacksonville aren’t even properly equipped to handle bikers – some lack bike lanes altogether, while others lack proper crossing points or road conditions. This poses an obvious problem when trying to sell a bike sharing program as a worthwhile investment.
What may be more troubling is that the statistics overwhelmingly agree with the notion that Jacksonville is not a biking city. A 2014 report by the Alliance for Biking and Walking ranked Jacksonville 49th out of 52 major cities in biker safety.
Specifically, the city averages 33.1 fatalities for every 10,000 commuters each year – over 20 more than the national average.
All of this suggests that major infrastructure changes are needed to make Jacksonville safe and accessible for bikers before a bike sharing program could take off.
The city seems to still be committed to, at the very least, making Jacksonville more bike-friendly. This would be the ideal first step toward making a bike sharing program more plausible.
The city held community meetings as recently as the beginning of this year looking to gather information on perceived issues with Jacksonville’s biking access.
Bike sharing programs are listed among the future methods of transportation to be available at the Jacksonville Regional Transportation Center, which is expected to be completed in 2019. However, no concrete details concerning these plans have been publicized as of yet.
Jacksonville University, meanwhile, is working on a bike sharing program called “J Bike” that would serve their campus. UNF has looked into initiating a similar service in the past, ultimately opting against it.
Ultimately, it looks as though the city is going to keep trying to make bike sharing a reality at least in the urban core. The question remains, though: will the city’s infrastructure be ready to support it?
What are YOUR thoughts on bike sharing programs coming to Jax? Let us know in the comments section below or on Twitter using hashtag #JaxBikeShare.