The Daily Princetonian recently called for Princeton University to launch a bikeshare scheme similar to the Citibike scheme which launched in New York earlier this year. The good news for the students is that Princeton University is indeed planning a bikeshare scheme. Although the plan has not been officially announced, and is at an early stage, a bikeshare program will be launched as part of the Arts and Transit Project. This is great news for Princeton students, but will the scheme be available to students at the Seminary and Choir College or to local residents?
Don’t bother asking the Mayor or your local elected representatives: nobody in municipal Princeton is liaising with the University about their bikeshare plans. This is crazy for several reasons. First, municipal Princeton should be far more advanced with plans for bikeshare. We are a relatively small town, with many amenities within easy cycling distance. Yet cycling in Princeton remains relatively niche especially compared to other college towns. If we are going to make local car-free or car-lite living easier, we should be investing in cycling culture. The advantages are clear: more people cycling to work means less traffic and less pressure for parking.
Second, when it comes to bikeshare, unity really is strength. If there is going to be bikeshare here in Princeton, then it makes sense for it to be a bikeshare scheme that is open to everybody. A Choir College student should be able to pick up a shared bike on their campus and ride it to the Dinky. A Princeton University student, getting off the train, could then pick up the bike, and ride it to their residential college. Another student could then take that bike and ride it to the Shopping Center, to get some groceries from McCaffreys. When they get back to campus and drop the bike off, a downtown worker could pick up the bike, and ride it to their neighborhood home. The result is increased convenience for everybody, support for car-free living, and maximum success for the program.
Princeton University could certainly launch a bikeshare scheme independently, but the scheme would be much more useful and successful if it encompassed the whole town. It’s not just about bragging rights over other Ivies, but building the best possible program. The University has a great track record in recent years of allowing local residents to walk around the campus and use the Tiger Transit buses, and bikeshare would be another great benefit for the local community and students alike.
It’s crazy that the town and University are not talking to each other about bikeshare. Both parties have something to get out of a collaboration, and a successful shared program would help to repair town-gown relationships, which have been severely frayed by the University’s decision to shift the Dinky station further away from the town. What is even stranger is that the University and the town are collaborating on a transportation initiative already: the ‘Alexander Street – University Place Transit Task Force‘. At their last progress report, the ASUP task force did not mention bikeshare, and it seems they do not consider it part of their remit. Either it should be, or a separate task force should be established to collaboratively implement bikeshare.
The ASUP task force are due to make a public presentation of their progress to date. The meeting has been tentatively scheduled for October 26 at the Princeton Public Library. (Note: we’ll be keeping our readers up-to-date with exactly what’s happening with this meeting, as the findings of the task force are of great importance for car-free living in Princeton.) We intend to ask questions about what the town is doing to work with Princeton University to implement bikeshare. Bikeshare now exists in over 535 towns, cities, and university campuses worldwide, and we in Princeton should not be left behind.
Have you ever used bikeshare in another town or city? Would you like to see bikeshare in Princeton? Is it worth it for the University to explore bikeshare on a collaborative basis with the town, or should they go it alone? Leave your comments using the form below!