In late 2014, Princeton University launched a shared bike program, which allows members to borrow a bicycle for a short time to cycle around town. The program uses bikes provided by Zagster, a company that operates bikeshare programs around the country. Anybody can become a member, for a one-time fee of $20, which allows unlimited rides of less than 2 hours duration with no additional cost. Over the years, the University has expanded the program so that there are now 125 bicycles available. The bikes can be borrowed and returned to any of 21 stations located around the wider Princeton region. But how often do people use them? The University provided statistics on usage to the town as part of a meeting that University President Chris Eisgruber held with town officials last week.
Based on the University’s figures, there were 3,137 active program members as of December 2018. Members have been borrowing the shared bikes on average 673 times per week since March 2016, making a total of 95,779 rides. That means that each bikeshare bicycle is used about once per day. How does that compare with other programs? According to statistics from the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), which consider all comparable programs around the USA, bikeshare systems that use fixed docs typically produce an average of 1.7 rides per bike per day. That means that the Princeton bikeshare program is seeing less use than average, but the other programs include systems such as CitiBike in New York, or Capital Bikeshare in Washington DC, which are huge programs with many more members.
On the other hand, bicycles in ‘dockless’ bikeshare programs, which do not have to be returned to fixed stations, are used on average about 0.3 times per day, according to NACTO statistics. Compared to these programs, the Princeton bikeshare is doing very well.
Princeton could also expand bikeshare use by placing more stations in convenient locations. The University has added quite a lot of bikeshare docks on campus in recent years, but there are only four in the town: at Princeton City Hall (400 Witherspoon Street), at the Princeton Shopping Center on North Harrison Street, at Hinds Plaza near Princeton Public Library and on Chambers Street. In 2015, the town of Princeton was awarded a $196,000 grant to expand bikeshare throughout the town, but this expansion has not yet happened. A survey conducted by the town also revealed that many potential bike users are put off by the lack of safe bike facilities on local roads.
To find out more about the Princeton bikeshare program or to become a member, check the Zagster website here.