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Bham Development: Zyp Bikeshare

Image via Zyp BikeShare


“During its first week, [Zyp bikeshare] saw more than 3,300 checkouts and about 2,500 miles traveled,” reported AL.com. And while the highest concentration of users were on Saturday afternoons, Zyp Director Lindsey West told AL.com she was also seeing folks use Zyp as an alternative to cars for short daytime trips around downtown. “It’s fun to see the culture shift happening so soon,” she told the site. We’ve talked about bike culture in Birmingham before, and we contacted West to find out more about how Zyp is influencing biking in Birmingham.

As of noon on November 4th — roughly three weeks into Zyp operations — the bikes had traveled 5,969 miles over 7,374 rides, according to West. Forty-five percent of Zyp rides happened Monday through Friday, and most of those trips occurred between 10:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m., “so during work hours,” West said.

West also pointed to ridership patterns that show up simply from stations used. “Usually  if it’s Railroad Park it’s probably more recreational,” she said. “If it’s 20th and Fifth that lends more toward grabbing coffee or going to a meeting.” Likewise, the 23rd Street and 2nd Avenue stop “lends to the restaurants, nightlife and all the lofts.”

As for who’s doing the riding — characteristics of annual versus casual members, for instance — that information is simply not available yet. West said Zyp planned to get demographic and usage information during surveys next summer. Giving the system some time to establish itself before conducting surveys has been the strategy for other bikeshare programs, she said. But she did point out that at $75, a Zyp annual membership “is the cheapest form of transportation in our city right now.”

But of course, the value of that membership depends on how well a bike commute works in our city. Unfortunately, West said, “it’s a chicken and egg conversation: bike infrastructure versus bike culture.”  Bikeshare organizations warned against waiting for infrastructure progress and leading with bikeshares instead, she said. Otherwise, they warned, Zyp could lose years hoping for ideal conditions.

Beyond getting people riding, the bikeshare program is useful in reframing the conversation around bike infrastructure for the city, West explained. “You can feel the culture shift, but now we can track it and see it with real data,” she said. “That’s been a large barrier for how cities set priorities.”

The Zyp system records data on travel routes for each bike, though West is quick to point out that it’s not storing travel patterns for individual riders. Knowing not only the neighborhoods but the actual paths people are taking, she said, will help create “really thought out, well-designed infrastructure that people will use, and that’s really the goal.”

In the meantime, Zyp is designed to make biking as easy as possible for as many folks as possible, West said. The pedelec system Zyp installed — which offers an electric boost for riders — should help everyone navigate Birmingham’s sometimes challenging landscape, she said. West, who maintains a Zyp commute these days, told us she recently turned heads cruising over a downtown viaduct with ease. So if you’re worried that you can’t bike without stalling traffic, Zyp is the system you want to try.

To find out more about membership, check out our instagram interview with Zyp Sales and Marketing Coordinator Michael Symes.

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