During the Fall 2010 semester, we experimented with ride frequency and started at 7:00am. We tried anywhere from 2-4 rides a week to see what was the most sustainable for riders. Because of the length of our commute, 15 miles each way, 2-3 days a week worked out best for most people. This semester we’ve ridden primarily on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and we changed our start time to 7:30am to better accommodate our riders’ schedules.
University Blvd. and Traffic Dynamics
University Blvd. is a very easy and safe road to drive your bike. It’s six lanes wide, which gives us the ability to control the right lane and gives motorists two full lanes to pass. Because we are controlling the lane, motorists see us from far away and change lanes early. This leads to little or no traffic congestion behind us and when we do get traffic buildup, typically due to traffic lights and road volume, we try our best to accommodate the motorists.
After riding on University Blvd. for so long, we’ve become quite familiar with the traffic dynamics that take place on the road. We typically get the road to ourselves for 60-90 seconds at a time, followed by a short period of motorists, usually 30-60 seconds. There tends to be very little traffic congestion heading eastbound until Dean Rd. and again at Rouse Rd. Once we reach both of these roads, we pull off into the gas station to let the platoon of motorists pass. This gives us the road to ourselves for the next minute or two. Learning these buildup points has made our commute much more enjoyable and the motorists appreciate it.
In October 2010, we contacted Orange County Traffic Engineering to try to get “Bikes May Use Full Lanes” signs put up along University Blvd. After much discussion, they did not feel comfortable putting those signs up and instead put “Share the Road” signs up. There are now “Share the Road” signs up all the way from Dean Rd. to Alafaya Blvd. We are still working on getting them to put up “Bikes May Use Full Lane” signs up.
Communications and Promotions
We’ve been using several methods of promoting the Bike Bus and communicating our ride schedule. Our Facebook Page, which currently has 133 followers, has been the easiest way to get timely updates about our schedules to our passengers. For those that do not use Facbeook, they can follow our update on Twitter.
One of our biggest projects in starting the Bike Bus was developing the Bike Bus Tracker website where people can go to see our location in real time. I wrote an iPhone app that I run whenever the Bike Bus is operating. It sends our coordinates to the website so passengers can see where we are and when they can expect to meet us.
The UCF SpokesCouncil aim is to educate and promote the use of bicycles around the UCF area. They have been a great resource of new riders and a conduit to help promote safe cycling at UCF. Working with them, we hope to bring Cycling Savvy to the UCF community to inform students, faculty and staff about safe cycling and empower them to drive their bikes safely on the road.
We’ve had the great fortune to have two significant articles published about the Bike Bus. In Fall, 2010 we had the opportunity to write an article for the Florida Bicycling Association’s quarterly newsletter, the Messenger. They put us on the cover page of the Fall 2010 edition! Subsequently, we were contacted by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center, who wrote a case study about the Bike Bus.
In these past 8 months, we’ve dealt with nearly every type of weather except for snow, though we have come close. Our coldest ride was at the beginning of January 2011 and it was in the low 20s with the wind chill. At this temperature, bike gloves and wool socks don’t really help to keep you warm. We fortunately had the foresight to pick up some hand warmers, but we were still uncomfortably cold.
As far as rain storms go, they are pretty much a fact of life in Florida. We will ride through most weather. Rain is easy to deal with and I bring garbage bags in case I need to shield anything from the rain. The weather that calls for ride cancellations are thunderstorms. When you’re in a car, you have a Faraday cage protecting you. On a bike, you are exposed and since Florida leads the nation in lightning injuries, we do not hesitate to cancel rides in thunderstorms.
Fortunately, in the case of inclement weather, we have several alternatives, including the Lynx Bus, reThink’s Emergency Ride Home Program, or UCF Zimride for UCF students and staff. This gives us many great options for the sudden and unpredictable Florida storms.
I want to take some of our travel data and convert it into dollars and cents to really give you an idea of how much money and gas we have saved from biking instead of driving. This information only quantifies some of the savings, but doesn’t take into account the health or environmental benefits of taking our cars off the road.
We have been riding now for approximate 8 months and on average we ride 2.5 days a week. Our commute from the Fashion Square Mall is 15 miles, or 30 miles round-trip. This is approximately 75 miles per person per week (our human-miles). We have averaged 3 riders per trip and according to AAA estimates, it costs on average $.59 per mile to drive a vehicle. This estimate includes “fuel, routine maintenance, tires, insurance, license and registration, loan finance charges and depreciation costs”.
|Riders||Human-Miles||Gas Savings1||Cost Savings2||Human-Miles||Gas Savings1||Cost Savings2||Human- Miles||Gas Savings1||Cost Savings2|
Each rider saves about about $175 per month in travel expenses and so far has accumulated approximately $1400 in savings over the course of 8 months. Just in gas savings, that’s $56 a month with current gas prices ($3.75/gallon). This is not an insignificant chunk of change!
Where do we go from here? Every semester we reevaluate the ride schedule based on ridership. Students and staff have different schedules so we try to accommodate as many people as possible.
I would like to give more focus to our communication strategy in the future so it’s easier to provide updates to all interested riders. Using so many different conduits for communication can be very time consuming and I tend to forget to update one outlet or another so the information ends up being inconsistent.
I have been contacted by others interested in starting their own bike buses and using the Bike Bus Tracker software. I am working on expanding it to accommodate more than one Bike Bus at a time. The ability to track the Bike Bus in real time is a great help for riders interested in joining.
I would like to increase our ridership, particularly closer to the University of Central Florida. Many students live within 5 miles of the school and could easily replace driving their car once or twice a week with a bike ride. This would be great for their health and their wallet.
I’m incredibly proud of what the Bike Bus has become. I’m grateful for the motorists that see us day in and day out and treat us with courtesy and respect. I would like to see other Bike Buses form to cover routes other than downtown to UCF. I think with the increasing cost of gas, cycling will become a much more attractive option for both peoples’ wallets and their health. I look forward to more rides and I hope you all can come out and join us on the road!