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Posted by on Apr 17, 2011 in General | 11 comments

Bike Bus Update

As we near the end of the second semester of the Bike Bus, it seems like a good time to provide an update of where we are. I’m happy to report that the Bike Bus has been riding strong for the past 8 months! We have 3-4 regular riders. Three of our members are Cycling Savvy graduates, two of which have gone on to become Cycling Savvy Instructors.

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.

Share the Road Sign

Share the Road on University Blvd

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.

Bike Bus Tracker

Bike Bus Tracker

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.

Weather

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.

Statistics

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”.

 

Weekly Monthly 8 months
Riders Human-Miles Gas Savings1 Cost Savings2 Human-Miles Gas Savings1 Cost Savings2 Human- Miles Gas Savings1 Cost Savings2
1 75 3.75 $43.88 300 15 $175.50 2400 120 $1,404.00
2 150 7.5 $87.75 600 30 $351.00 4800 240 $2,808.00
3 225 11.25 $131.63 900 45 $526.50 7200 360 $4,212.00

1 in gallons, assuming 20 mpg
2 AAA estimates

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!

The Future

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!

11 Comments

  1. I love riding every week, and hope we get more and more people to join up for the summer/fall terms! EXCELLENT write up! The chart really puts things in perspective, and it doesn’t even take into account the price of parking on campus (around $45 a semester for us students). I have noticed the same as you during our rides: infrequent car hostility, better attitudes, overall ease of ride, exercise, increased experience and exposure to road riding, and overall enjoyment of the rest of the day. Everyone commuting into the UCF area owes it to themselves to join, it is great fun!

  2. Great article about the Bike Bus! You’ve done a great job developing and fine tuning this event. The Bike Bus app must be very useful for riders along the route, so they can see when to coordinate meeting up with the group along the way. The stats are very powerful – huge savings. Keep at it! John

  3. Considering it is the law, why do they feel “uncomfortable” putting up signs saying bikes may use full lane?

    • The conversation got as far as they “considered it a liability” to put up the BMUFL signs and kids would “ride in the street because the signs were there” and then they’d have a lawsuit on their hands. It was an entirely speculative conversation with no real facts as to why they wouldn’t put them up. They put the Share the Roads signs up before the discussions really came to an end.

      I’m still going to work on getting them up, especially now that Florida has officially adopted the 2009 MUTCD, which includes the BMUFL signs.

      • If it’s not too late, can you request that they add a state statute citation to the signs (like they do on the red light running $whatever signs)? This would make it clear that it applies to (almost) all roads, and that the signs don’t actually change anything.

  4. The logic BMUFL signs would induce “kids” to “ride in the street because the signs where there” is ludicrous.

    Minors (i.e. kids) are responsibility of parents or guardians.

    If Florida law supports BMUFL the Orange County engineer has to give a objective rational explanation other than a “uncomfortable feeling and veiled worries about liability.” BMUFL was created as replacement for Share the Road.

    Otherwise, I think you are doing a incredible work, keep it up.

    • The logic that those would expose the county to liability but bike lanes wouldn’t is just… yeah.

    • “uncomfortable feeling”

      Yup, or “disagree with the law.”
      The liability argument is the reason given when all else fails. It is handy because it works for everything.

      Just having a street or highway or house or anything at all, creates liability.

      It takes about 20 years for the engineers to come around to new ideas. Co-incidentally, that’s the time for people to retire?

      Maybe you have 20 years to wait, but I don’t.

  5. Guys: Teriffic write-up!! I’m hoping there is continued “advertising” of the BikeBus at and around UCF so that indeed you can grow. Love the jersey’s too!! Maybe you can offer some kind of give-away if a rider joins up.

    Do you think the consistancy of seeing you guys on the road every Tues/Thurs at approximately the same time has led to any changes in motorists behavior?

    • Thanks Andrew! I like the idea of a rider giveaway, I’ll put some more thought into that.

      I have seen a change in behavior from when we first started. The first week or two we got quite a few honks and yells, but now we get maybe 1 per trip or less. I’ve spoken to others that commute regularly along a usual route and they’ve had a similar experience over time.

  6. Perhaps this would be a better use of the term ‘critical mass’ than the Critical Mass demonstrations? Of course it’s too late now.