Sunday, April 29, 2018

Black Crowes – "Let Me Share the Ride" (1996)

Let me share the ride
Let me share the ride

A few days ago, I was riding my bike on the Sligo Creek hiker-biker trail and minding my own business when I saw this shared bike parked just off the trail:

A few minutes later, I saw this shared bike:

Shortly after that, I saw this pair of shared bikes parked side by side:

I counted 20-odd shared bikes parked along the six miles of the Sligo Creek trail that I covered on my ride.  None of them had been left anywhere near a Metro station or bus stop or major intersection.  

What the hell?

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The Washington area is awash in shared bicycles.

Capital Bikeshare, which has been around since 2010, is the largest of the DC-area shared-bike operations with more than 4300 bikes spread out among almost 500 docking stations in the District of Columbia and suburban Maryland and Virginia.

A Capital Bikeshare bike
I purchased a Capital Bikeshare membership last summer.  For $85 a year, I can take an unlimited number of rides.  But I can’t keep a bike more than 30 minutes without paying an extra charge.  

Sometimes the docking stations where Capital Bikeshare bicycles are deployed are empty.  That’s bad if you’re looking for a bike to ride:

Other times the docking stations are filled to capacity.  That’s bad if you’re looking to drop off a bike at the end of a ride:

A few months ago, I planned to ride a Capital Bikeshare bike the mile or so from a Metro station to my dentist’s office.  But the docking station nearest the dentist was completely full – so I couldn’t leave my bike there.  The two next-closest stations were also filled up.  I had to go to a fourth docking station to find an empty space to park the bike.

That’s important because you have to secure the bike to a dock or take the risk that someone will steal it – leaving you on the hook for a $1200 lost bike fee.

The good news is that no one in his or her right mind would steal a Capital Bikeshare bike.  They are heavy and ungainly and uncomfortable, and I can’t imagine riding one more than a few miles.

But for me they are the best alternative when it comes to covering short distances in downtown DC because they’re faster than walking and less expensive than cabs or the Metro.  (Plus cabs get hung up in traffic, and you usually have to wait a few minutes for the next Metro train to show up – so bikes usually get you where you want to go just as fast.)

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Last September, the county where I live – Montgomery County, Maryland – allowed four dockless bike-sharing companies to place their bikes on the mean streets of Silver Spring.

The biggest advantage of dockless bikes is that you aren’t required to check them out from or return them to a docking station – you can grab one wherever you find it, and leave it wherever you want.

Feel like leaving your shared bike on its side out in the middle of nowhere?  No problem:

The biggest disadvantage of dockless bikes is that there’s no guarantee that there will be a bike available at any particular bike location.  And dockless bikes are sometimes left blocking sidewalks or doorways by their I-can’t-be-bothered riders.

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LimeBike, which is the largest dockless bikeshare operator in the U.S., has raised $62 million from investors and has placed some 10,000 bikes in 30 American cities.  They dropped off 240 of their green and yellow bikes in Silver Spring last October:

I saw 16 of them along the stretch of the Sligo Creek trail I rode.  I suppose it’s possible that someone taking a walk on the trail might decide to hop on one of them and ride it back to downtown Silver Spring, but it’s far more likely that the company will have to ferry them back in one of its trucks it uses to reposition its bikes where they are needed.

I also saw four Mobike bikes and five Ofo bikes sitting along the trail.  Each of those companies are Beijing-based behemoths that own millions of bikes and operates in hundreds of cities, mostly in China (where bikesharing is hugely popular) but also in other countries.

An Ofo shared bike
parked next to a Mobike
I saw only one Spin bike.  Spin is a West Coast startup company like LimeBike that’s also investing in shared electric scooters:

As I previously noted, none of those bikes had been left anywhere near a Metro station or bus stop or major intersection.  I can only guess that most of them were ridden by returning commuters to the point on the trail nearest their homes.  They presumably left the bikes there and walked to their residences.  (I’m not sure why you wouldn’t just ride the bike all the way to your house, unless there is some rule against parking on sidewalks in residential neighborhoods that I don’t know about.) 

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The dockless bikeshare companies operating in the DC area charge $1 per 30 minutes of usage.  You find bikes – which have built-in GPS technology – by using an app, and you use the same app to unlock the bike built-in locking mechanism.

I’ve not been tempted to try one of the dockless bikes.  For one thing, I have my Capital Bikeshare membership, so I can ride their bikes for free.  (David Copperfield’s old nurse, Peggotty, described her husband as being “close” with money.  I’m a bit close with my money as well.)

For another, I’m not too excited about downloading the app, opening a new account, and figuring out how the checkout system works.

Too damn complicated
The dockless bikes do look a little more nimble and rideable that the Capital Bikeshare clunkers, but they aren’t nearly as nimble and rideable as my own bikes.

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“Let Me Share the Ride” was released in 1996 on Three Snakes and One Charm, the fourth Black Crowes studio album.  

The song is about hitchhiking, not bikesharing, but . . . whatever.

Melody Maker once described the Black Crowes as “The Most Rock ’n’ Roll Rock ’n’ Roll Band in the World.”  I don’t know about that, but I do know that “Hard to Handle” and “Remedy” are silly records.

Here’s “Let Me Share the Ride”:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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