I've been following closely the so-called Bike Share program in Baton Rouge, which I call “Dinky Bikes For Rent.” It’s been flying under the radar for some time now, promoted by the mayor, all Metro Council members, the Downtown Development District, BRAC, BRAF and a pack of other politically-connected players. In a nutshell, they want to spend $801,000 of our taxpayer money to get the city into the bike rental business.
Who is this Dinky Bikes business, anyway? The first clue is its singular name: “Gotcha.” This says it all. The next clue is in Gotcha’s motto, “Social Equalizer,” which is apparently supposed to conjure an image of peaceful coexistence among its customers. Finally, it touts its seemingly high-minded but mindless phrase, “Mobility is Freedom.”
You can “subscribe” to Gotcha for only $75/year (one hour’s “free” ride time per day), $15/month (one-half hour’s “free” ride time per day), $10 (for a “free” 24 hours) or $6/hour (prorated by the minute). Some thinking persons have asked: Why should I pay to rent a bike when I already own my own bike, can ride it anytime, anywhere, for as long as I want — for free?
Two incontrovertible facts about biking in Baton Rouge. One, it is not bicycle-friendly; the roads can be hazardous, both to bikers as well as their rides. Two, what about the south Louisiana weather and its heat and humidity, which can leave one's clothes sweaty, smelly and soggy? Not an ideal way to go to work or class, or to meet for lunch.
As far as ridership is concerned, the number of persons who ride bicycles (not for sport) in Baton Rouge now is quite low. I made a month-long personal survey, driving through the areas in Baton Rouge where Gotcha and the city imply there are enough riders to make the program workable. This includes LSU, Southern, Mid-City north of Florida Boulevard and a small area of the southeast portion of the parish. Why are other areas of the city ignored here? Why are Baker, Central and Zachary ignored?
My survey included only actual bicyclists, during daytime hours and nighttime hours, during weekdays and weekends. In the proposal submitted by Gotcha, I didn’t see any survey of numbers of persons actually biking in any defined areas of Baton Rouge. The number of bikes and docks to be installed showed no figures on which these numbers were based. And of course, without the above figures, realistic estimates of bike usage per person and per time period could not have been calculated. Gotcha!
Want to save almost a million dollars of taxpayer money in the coming tax election? Call the biker dudes listed above.