New York and Chicago are in a bind. They need to try and provide oodles of bike lanes for their current crop of bike commuters, enthusiasts and tourist while keeping their BikeShare systems solvent. At the same time bicyclists are pressing hard to have automobile parking removed from streets and parking lots inside the city limits. The idea is to discourage the use of fossil fuel burning vehicles and to limit the waste of open space to park them.
What has not yet sunk in though is that privately owned bicycles have the same problems when it comes to parking. Each commuter needs a place to park their bike and a lock or two to secure it. Bicyclists are notoriously cheap bastards. So offering them on street parking meters in the manner of automobiles or even parking lots with monthly fees is going to be a hard sell.
But to make matters worse the city is counting on having their BikeShare system become a fully functioning part of their Mass Transit system. In effect they are direct competition for private bike use within the city limits. So it seems all but certain that to keep these systems solvent there will be a move to discourage private bicycle use for commuting as much as possible.
BikeShare is currently too cheap. It cannot become a sustainable service at those prices, unless the number of annual and daily users drastically increases. It will soon be obvious that as the number of bicycle commuters increases on-street sidewalk parking racks are not going to handle the volume of parking required. BikeShare is the best solution since it does not required a stagnant parking space for each commuter.
BikeShare is going to have to find a means of helping independent bike shops to become part of this new Mass Transit system. The most likely decision will be to outsource the servicing of bikes to bike shops. But in addition cities will have to find creative ways of getting commuters to buy gear to use when commuting.
Bike shops could be the best outlets for the purchase of helmets, wet weather clothing for on bike use, cycling specific casual or dress shoes, bicycle specific carrying cases and bags, etc.
The future of BikeShare can be bright but only if the current crop of commuters realizes that they are going to have to become the mainstay of support for this system to help it reach critical mass in terms of ridership. The idea of exchanging one set of unsightly parking garages for another set to house bicycles is untenable.
One bright spot will be that folding bikes like the Brompton will provide a source of income for shops willing to market them while making it possible for private owners of such bikes to commute into the city without having to find very expensive parking options. All that the user needs to consider is whether his office will allow him to walk his bike into the lobby and carry it up to his cubicle via the elevator where he can stow it under his desk.