Road Testing the SOBI BikeShare

BikeShare came to Albany August 9 – 16 giving Albanians a chance to test both the concept of BikeShare using a “social bicycle” system and the bicycles themselves.

The indomitable Tim O’Brien of the Times Union reported tentative results of the BikeShare test in the Times Union on August 19.  Notably, a common thread of those quoted in the article is the need for meaningful bicycle infrastructure (read: “protected bicycle lanes,” “buffered bicycle lanes,” and “bicycle lanes”) as a precondition for getting people on bicycles on the road and cars off.  Absent this realignment in road design priorities by the cities, people who fear braving traffic will continue to do so and BikeShare will remain a novelty.

Friday, August 15, seemed like a great time for a “road test.”  The starting point was at the sign-in table in Tricentennial Park (Broadway and Columbia St.).  While the registration process was slow, in a real, live system this would be a one-time task.  As with this test, one could have registered in advance at  However, meeting with the BikeShare attendants, Nnenna and Dakota, was more fun and provided a chance to ask questions (and get my Brompton’s soft tyres filled – much to my embarrassment).??????????????????????

After providing everything but my maternal grandmother’s maiden name, I was assigned a 6-digit login code and a 4-digit PIN of my choice.  The helpful attendant gave me a quick orientation on the bicycle and guided me through the sign out process using the key pad on the rear of the bicycle (see photo). ?????????????????????? After a quick brake check and seat adjustment, it was off down Broadway feeling like the “king of the road” on my very upright SOBI.

My first ride was 1.4 miles (and 25 minutes) from Tricentennial Park, past the Times Union Center, up the hill toward the ESP and then on to Eagle Street and a photo op –appropriately in front of City Hall.  Even with a severe respiratory issue, the smooth shifting, well-geared bicycle let me make the trip without issue.  Feeling rather proud to be part of some grand experiment, I went down Pine to Lodge and then again did the “king of the road” thing down State St. with all the lunch-time crowd looking with (I imagine) admiration and envy.


After returning my BikeShare ride to Tricentennial Park, I hopped back on my Brompton and headed to Washington Park/Lark to try some more SOBIs.  Since these are “social bicycles,” there are no docking stations as in some of the larger, established systems.  One locks up or unlocks from a conventional bicycle rack (which, if not plentiful, are scattered around the city).  At the Washington Park rack, I selected a new ride from the covey of idle bicycles and took a short cruise to the Downtube Bicycle Works for a courtesy weigh in (45# 14 oz) and then to “Lil’ Buddha” for lunch.  (Notably, even the SOBI’s cushy tires and seat could not absorb the joint-jarring, nonsensical bricks on Lark).


Glitch #1 – So engrossed was I in the lunch or my reading material that I did not notice that another BikeShare user checked out “my” bicycle while I was sitting 10 feet away at the patio table!  I could have avoided this issue but using the “Hold” function on the key pad whereby the bicycle could have been unlocked with only my pin and would have not been available to another user.  There must be an iphone “app” for locating another ride, but I merely carried my helmet back to Washington Park.  In a live system, one would know the location of hubs where the likelihood of finding a free bicycle is high.  (For this test, there were hubs at Washington and Tricentennial parks and Lark St.)

Glitch #2 – As I approached the bike stand it dawned on me that the info card with the secret login code was with my Brompton and not me.  After retrieving the needed number, I tried to check out another ride only to have the readout say “Move bike ~ No connection.”  Duh.  Selecting another bicycle, I headed for a relaxing jaunt on Central Ave., circled around Quail and Washington, and then rode back to a bike rack on Lark.??????????????????????

Some impressions:

  • My “glitches” really weren’t as they would be resolved with better operator preparedness.
  • The SOBI is comfortable with an impressive upright position.
  • The Shimano “Nexus” 3-speed hub shift works very smoothly with no need to ease up on the pedals to allow shifts.
  • The shifter is opposite from a normal 3-speed or derailleur in that one twists down for a higher gear.
  • The SOBI has a smooth, functional design.  Nothing appears tacked on as an afterthought.  There are few if any snag points for clothes or gear.
  • With the big tubing, there is a lot of white paint making the SOBIs easy to spot – both parked an on the road.  (It was nice to see some other SOBIs during the BikeShare week.)??????????????????????
  • The shaft drive makes an unfamiliar but pleasant noise (to which one rapidly grows accustomed), but this is more than offset by the cleanliness (no greasy paint legs) and durability of the enclosed drive.
  • The U lock rattles in its storage position.  (I was advised that this has been addressed.)
  • As the dynamo-powered lights go “on” automatically in the dark, no assessment was possible.
  • The rear “rack” isn’t.  The rear assembly is for the electronics, tail light, and U lock and not for gear or groceries.  Plan on a messenger bag or the like.
  • The front basket, although sturdy, might be unwieldy when loaded, as it is integral to the handlebars and steering assembly.  (This was not tested.)
  • But try to find the bell!


Overall, I was pleased that Capital District Transportation Committee, the City of Albany, and Buffalo BikeShare – supported by PAL and Albany Bike Rescue (helmets) – conducted this study.  It was exciting chance to test out both the equipment and the checkout/check in procedure. 

From start to finish, everything worked about as one would expect.  The “social sign- in/sign-out” feature was attractive as it eliminates the need to hunt for a docking station with a vacant spot, avoids the type of docking issues that still plague New York City’s CitiBike system (reported as recently as 727/14, New York Times), and provides convenience for those riding to hub-starved areas.  The downsides are the need for a “smart” phone or notepad to locate the nearest non-hub bicycle and the administrative headache of having to identify and retrieve SOBIs from out-of-the-way drop points.  As an added bonus, Albany’s BikeShare experiment was extended an extra day so a group of the Daily Grind riders could stop in at the Washington Park hub for a try out.

If you did you own BikeShare assessment, please add your comments to this post.  Please also remember to complete the “Capital Moves” BikeShare survey.


PHOTOS: Hub at Tricentennial Park, Keypad, SOBI at City Hall, Lil’ Buddha, Hub at Washington Park, Hub on Lark, and Happy Rider.

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Daily Grind – 7 Years of Bliss

Thanks to our loyal sponsors, the Daily Grind Coffee Shops, we had the 7th Annual Daily Grind Ride was on Saturday, 8/16/14.  After a photo op at the Albany café, we cruised down State St. to the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail.  Riders

 ??????????????????????Ali and Adam, Amanda and Derrick, Amy and Ken, David, Indiana and Perry, Jim, Joe, John, Lorenz, Margaret, and Mike paused at the boat launch to meet up with two more riders and for another pic.  The weather could not have been better and the path was well use by joggers, people on bicycles, and walkers.

???????????????????????????????On the way through sunny Watervaliet, Bert joined us and did Rob and Theo later on in Troy.  For the first time ever, after leaving the Sovereign and Independent Nation of Green Island, we were stopped by the lift bridge (after which we all felt guilty sliding by the long line of stopped cars).??????????????????????

The Daily Grind staff in Troy rolled out the welcome mat and the food with a generous discount for all who partook.  At both the Albany and Troy shops, we presented the staff with a framed picture of the 2013 riders posed in front of the respective café.

 After lunch, some went to the Troy Farmers Market while others headed back to Albany by the bike path.  Three riders went to the SOBI BikeShare hub in Washington Park.  The share bicycles were so popular that only one was there (and it was “grounded”).  Nonetheless, one of our number took a short test ride and expressed her satisfaction with the BikeShare bicycle.


Overall, a good time was had by all sixteen who participated with our youngest rider, Indiana, lending her special charm to the event.  She was later joined by Theo who helped keep us smiling.

PHOTOS: Albany Café, Boat Launch, “Stop” – the Bridge is “Up,” Troy Café, Après Ride


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Riding (and Walkin’ and Sittin’) In Albany

Walkin’, strollin’, slow goin’, sittin’, ridin’, and movin’, on a summer day downtown . . .

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BikeShare in Albany – August 9-15

On June 20, 2014, the Capital District Transportation Committee announced its CAPITAL REGION BIKESHARE MONTH.  This will include short-term BikeShare pilots in Albany, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady, and Troy.  There will be 25 bicycles for use between 10 am and 8 pm at one or more locations announced by the cities.  The Albany BikeShare will be in Washington Park in Albany from Saturday, August 9 through Friday, August 15.  There is no cost to participants, although a credit card will need to be on file as security for the bikes.  More information and updates will be available here.

2 CitiBike New Yoker & Intro of NYC Bike Share 6-3-13 COMP


4 Paris COMP

5 Boulder BikeShare COMP


Other City Dates were/are as follows: Schenectady Thursday July 10 – Wednesday July 16, TroySunday July 20 – Saturday July 26, and Saratoga Springs Wednesday July 30 – Tuesday August 5.

The signature program in New York State is CitiBike.  Here are some statistics on NYC followed by global data.

The Cold, Hard Facts  . . . on CitiBike in New York City (as of May 2014)

Trips – 9 million+
Avg. Trip – 14 min, 16 sec
Miles – 16 million+
Annual Memberships – 10,700
Casual Use Passes – 400,000
Fleet – 6,200 bicycles
Crash Reports – 100
Carbon Offset – 5,832,377 lbs.
Flats per Month – 511

(Source: NYC Bicycle Share., LLC as reported in Bicycling, July 2014)

Global Bicycle Share

Percentage of world population in cities – 50
Fleet Size (52 countries, 600 cities; early 2014) – 570,000
China Fleet (82 programs) 380,000
World’s Largest Program Fleet (Wuhan, China; 9 million people) – 90,000
Programs in USA – 36
Predicted USA Fleet (late 2014) – 37,000
Paris Fleet – 24,000+
Paris Stations – 1,700+
Paris’s Increase in People on Bicycles in the Streets (2007-14) – 41%
Average Annual AAA Cost to Own a Car and Drive 10,000 Miles/Year – $7,800
Bike Share Annual Membership – less than $100
London Fleet – 9,000+ (launched 2010, 6,000 bicycles)
Programs in España – 132
Programs in Italia – 104
Programs in Deutschland – 43
Weight Loss Going from Driving to Cycle Commuting – 10 lb/year

(Source: Bicycle Times, September 2014)

1 CitiBike TU 3-22-14 COMP

3 Capital Bike Share DC COMP

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Make Big Bucks With Your Bicycle

Free Delivery TNY 6-2-14 001 COMP Alert reader Frank forwarded an article from the Sierra Club journal under its “green biz” section on people pumping their pedals to provide services. tumblr_md5rz9QcHn1qakvm6o1_1280 Ruthy Woodring of Pedal People hauls away trash and recyclables in Northampton, Massachusetts (which seems to not have curbside collection).  Her company is a cooperative of 16 workers who collect trash and recyclables for 600 customers.  The longest distance between a customer and the transfer station is 3 miles with a typical route requiring 3 trips averaging 15 to 20 miles on trailers with 300 pound capacity.  Their biggest customer is the city – the Pedal People has 80 trash and recycling bins in the downtown.   Further north, Julien Myette founded a bike-and-trailer moving company, Demenagement Myette, in Montreal and has been in operation since 2008.  Demenagement Myette has about 500 customers per year, employs 15 people (during peak season), and uses 4-wheel trailers holding 600 pounds.  Loads include beds, washing machines, armoires – all but pianos.  Since Montreal is densely urban, the average move is less than 2 miles.  Myette notes that driving a truck cost half an hour trying to park. tumblr_n35qi9fBxT1t1f3c0o1_400 Locally, there was a bread delivery service in the Delaware Ave. area and a compost pickup in Troy.  Anyone knowing of someone operating a bicycle-powered service is encouraged to comment.


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