Bike Share in Davis Is Not for Everyone

Reasonable Inclusivity, and a Peer-Based Independent Mobility Threshold? Nope, Bike Share in Davis Is Not for Everyone.

By Todd Edelman


The wait is over and the regional JUMP bikeshare system gets introduced to Davis and UC Davis this week. It used to be called Social Bicycles, but now the name has changed, and – much more than that – the bikes are all going to be electric-assist, but you’ll still need to pedal. The bikes are called pedelecs, and by California law they are Type 1 electric bicycles. This type of bike gives a boost up to 20 mph (normal urban bicycle cruising speed is about 13 mph). You can start riding the bikes in May. The system will also be expanding from a small pilot in Sacramento and West Sacramento. By the end of summer there’ll be about 700 bikes total by summer in all three cities (and UC Davis campus).

“But everyone in Davis has a bike!” proclaims the chorus. About a week ago in a discussion on the Davis Bike Club listserve in response to this column in the Davis Enterprise, I mentioned many ways  that bike share can complement or supplement bicycle ownership. To help us understand it further, the system’s outreach crew – from SACOG (Sacramento Area Council of Governments), JUMP, and other consultants – were at the Memorial Union yesterday, and today they’ll be at Farmers’ Market in Central Park.

I encourage you to stop by their stand and ask questions…  but from the perspective – if necessary use your imagination and act the part – that you’re over 210 lbs and/or under 18 years of age: If the outreach crew is honest they’ll say “Sorry, this system is not for you. Not everyone can use bike share. The system is a partnership between SACOG and JUMP, and we had to make some
compromises. Now, please move aside so the fit adult behind you can be helped.”

That’s a sort of summary of what I’ve been told for more than year and  just a slightly more dramatic version than what we were told at the last Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission (BTSSC) meeting in early February, and it seems to represent my so far unanswered query I made of JUMP over a month ago. For their part, SACOG’s staff members and City Councilmembers such as Lucas Frerichs – who was on the bike share committee and is on the board of SACOG – say that they’re discussing the issues with JUMP, and Councilmember Frerichs told me via social media shortly after the BTSSC meeting that they were going to do something about the weight issue. But nothing’s changed in the JUMP user agreement since January – the bikes are currently operating in San Francisco and Washington, D.C. (Still, I respect and trust Councilmember Frerichs and am confident that something will be changed with the weight issue – other systems have a limit of about 260 to 275 lbs., and many have none at all, including in e.g. hilly Santa Monica, where JUMP provides non-electric assist bikes – here’s the user agreement). Of course no one is weighed when they sign up, but if there’s a problem, a crash, etc… a member’s weight could come into play.)

You’d agree that the City of Davis really wants everyone to ride bikes, right? Including youth, so that they develop a healthy and social lifestyle?  The Transportation Element in the City’s General Plan specifically mentions the “E” for Equity, and it’s obviously a key part of the 2014 Davis Bicycle Action Plan. Other foundational documents, for example in Davis: the resolution that created our Human Relations Commission, to the City’s “Principles of One Community” and the region: “SACOG does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, creed, religion, national origin, age, marital status, ancestry, medical condition, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity in conducting its business.” These all support what I call  “reasonable inclusivity.”

SACOG and JUMP are crowdsourcing locations for bikeshare hubs – but under-18s who offer ideas won’t be able to use the bikes.

Reasonable inclusivity in this specific context indicates that minors who are tall enough to operate JUMP bikes (nearly everyone at the beginning of 9th grade) should be able to use them. California like all US states allows 16-year-olds to drive and may be able to use bike share, also at 16, including systems supplied by JUMP (and there’s no formal difference between a 16- and a 13- or 14-year-old). Thirteen-year-olds in the same region – and more or less along the same commuter rail service – in Alameda, CA, can currently use LimeBike bikeshare. Austin, Texas, too! As far as real risk goes, I think that a young teen in Davis will be at least as proficient in riding an electric assist bike as someone older who has been (re-)introduced to cycling, via JUMP.

Certainly this is not “discrimination,” per se, e.g. under Federal law, but in my opinion it clearly violates the goals and principles of the City and region. I was appointed to the BTSSC in December 2017 to support the goals of the City. These goals include inclusivity in mobility and active transportation.

Inclusivity by definition requires a point of entry. It can be at birth, when we are accepted into a Universe of beautiful breathing mammals, or age 35, when USA-born citizens can become president of the country. When the current regional pilot for bike share – it started in May 2017 – was organized over a year ago, it seemed to make sense to create a peer-based threshold for bike share, in other words one not based simply on age, like a driver’s license, or the ability to purchase an assault rifle. Children spend more time with classmates than with anyone else, but their friends in the same grade might a year younger and older than them. Entry based on age would separate peers from each other. (Doesn’t this create some thorny social issues when only some but not all persons in a peer group can give up their penny-farthing for a Prius?)

The minimum height required to ride the bikes is five feet. As nearly all boys and girls are five feet tall by the time they are 14, the age of most when they start ninth grade, perhaps ninth grade should be the entrance of inclusivity, yes? Significantly, most high schools – no, not in Davis – are grades 9 to 12. So this became an earlier proposal – and one that applies directly to JUMP’s stubborn ageism: that from the first day of ninth grade, bike share membership should be possible (providing that the ninth grader’s parent or guardian agrees).

But all journeys are multi-modal, right? Sure, this includes walking to the car, but what I have in mind is the bicycle plus the train, a popular combination that our City – as well as its partners in the great region such as Capitol Corridor – supports very much. (In the Netherlands something like 40% of people arrive at the train station by bike, and the main bike share system is national and owned by the state railway.) What use is access to a shared bike at ninth grade when it’s not possible to use the shared train without adult supervision, as is the case with Amtrak, which makes the rules for the Capitol Corridor trains it operates. Yes, one has to be 16 to ride alone, without permission – and 18 to accompany a friend or sibling under 16. (Consider that a 17-year-old who’s been driving for a year can fill their parents’ car with their peers, and drive to Davis High School and park for free, but cannot use their own or a parents’ bike share membership to use a bike, or that they could drive friends to a bike share dock, and but not be able to use the bikes.)

From this follows a more comprehensive plan: Independent mobility from the first day of ninth grade:

1. Use of all public transport vehicles and facilities without supervision or permission from parents/guardians. Ability to accompany minors younger than ninth grade on public transportation, with only anyone 4th grade and under required to have written permission from a parent or guardian;

2. Use of any bike share system in which they are generally able to use the bike (height, skills) and with no reference specifically to age;

3. No requirement for use of bicycle helmets (except for organized sporting and other events that typically require a helmet for everyone);

4. An at least 67% discount for all public transport 24/7/365 including bike share and Amtrak California services – for Amtrak California based on half of the per ticket discount in an Amtrak ten-pack of tickets – till the last day of the summer one year after graduating from high school; and

5. Ability to use carshare from the first day of 12th grade, as long as they’ve had a license for one-year.

This “Ninth” Strategy is discussed in more detail at this Google Docs link. It’s very much a work-in-progress and is set up to take your comments – I want to create this strategy with help of my fellow Davisites and neighbors in the region, and especially those in 8th grade and up who want to help with what is hopefully a short-term goal to help them become fully independent in mobility, with all the benefits that can create. It’s about driving, too – it’s always about the right tool for the job – but at least two years before it’s possible to get a license to drive.

Why does JUMP have the age 18 limit? It’s obviously about liability from their perspective, but JUMP has operations where kids younger than 18 can participate, such as in Breeze in Santa Monica, or Biketown in Portland. Is it about risk? Perhaps… sure… whatever… isn’t it risky to not let children become as independent as possible as early as possible? I suggest you ask SACOG why they created a contract that lets JUMP set the age – and weight – limits, and ask JUMP what they have against kids. Because their policy is against kids.

The good news for kids in the region is that LimeBike will operate in Folsom and Rancho Cordova – these towns don’t use a bicycle as their symbol, but kids in these towns will be able to use bike share five years before their peers in Davis, Sacramento and West Sacramento.

Todd Edelman is a member of the Bicycling, Transportation and Street Safety Commission of the City of Davis, but the views expressed here are his own. Todd currently lives with four roommates in a rented house in the Birch neighborhood; he moved to Davis in August 2016.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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  1. Robert Canning

    Thanks for the informative article and ideas, Todd.  One of my first thoughts had to do with dropping the helmet law requirement for kids in 9th grade and above.  I wondered about the impact on fatalities and injuries but found, using the CDC’s Injury Prevention website WISQARS that injuries from bicycle-related injuries (or as the CDC calls them “pedal cyclist injuries) drops for the age group 15-17 and is far less than those for older and younger. The number of pedal-related deaths is also very small (<20 in 2015).  So why do we require high school-age kids to wear bike helmets?

    1. Todd Edelman

      odd man: Thanks! The linked document in the Op-Ed- near the end – is a concept for a statewide strategy including a change in helmet requirements. Statewide policy change is very important if we want improvements in youth mobility.  (That said, I  would support Davis as a helmet freedom sanctuary city…).

    2. Alan Miller

      So why do we require high school-age kids to wear bike helmets?

      I believe it’s to discourage bicycle use.  Girls that age hate ‘hat hair’ and boys that age don’t want to be seen with a helmet.  So their parents drive them to school.

      1. Ken A

        The people that pushed through the law were bribed (aka received perfectly legal campaign contributions) from the people that make and sell bike helmets.  The people that make ski helmets paid a ton of bribes (perfectly legal campaign contributions) when Arnold was governor but did not get the law they wanted.  If anyone has seen a guy wearing full safety gear riding a motocross motorcycle there is a lot more money on the table to “protect kids” so I’m guessing that ten years from now we will have even less kids riding bikes since girls don’t want to wear these when they ride to school:

        P.S. Can anyone reading this post a link to an obituary of a classmate that died because they were not wearing a bike helmet?

        1. Howard P

          Classmate only?   Death only?  Or would that include non-classmates who ended up with major head injuries causing long-term/permanent disability and/or major medical bills?

          Please clarify…

        2. Don Shor

          I had a neighbor who cracked her skull in an accident biking around Lake Berryessa without a helmet. She wasn’t killed but it was a very serious injury.

        3. Ken A

          I (almost) always wear a bike helmet and (for at least 20 years) have always worn a ski, motorcycle and climbing helmet so I am a fan of helmets.

          When I ride dirt bikes I look a lot like a stormtrooper and don’t want to tell anyone not to wear safety gear, but I’m pretty sure that we will not have a lot of (or even one more most years) dead bodies in the Yolo county morgue if we let kids ride bikes to school without helmets IF THEY WANT TO (like they did for over 100 years in America without a lot of deaths).  Most kids will still wear helmets but we will get a few more “cool guys” and “blow dry” girls on bikes (and since we know they will get in better shape riding to school my guess is that the overall health benefits will outweigh the slim chance of a head injury killing anyone)…

          P.S. It is important to remember that kids still die on bikes (or snowboards like the guy at Squaw yesterday) when they are wearing helmets so a helmet law is no guarantee that everyone will get to school alive (a helmet won’t help the kids wearing headphones hit by trains)…

        4. Howard P

          You are somewhat correct… helmets don’t do much for fatal injuries due to crashes… but they do a lot against brain damage injuries… guess which costs families and society more… fatal crashes, or non-fatal head injuries?

          Funerals/interments are relatively cheap and timely… treatment for head/brain injuries, rehab, long term disability, are a much more costly (and longer term) proposition (for families, and society when family can’t pay)… that’s why they’re called “brain buckets”…

        5. Todd Edelman

          The Netherlands is the safest place to ride a bike, and its normal, everyday, boring etc. cyclists wear almost no helmets, children included.

          But when doing more risky cycling activities, the Dutch tend to wear helmets.

          We could wear helmets in passenger cars, or in bathrooms. It would certainly help in some situations. But the decision to wear one should be up to an adult, or an adult for their child. (And how long would a politician last who spoke of tens of thousands of preventable head injuries as justification for mandatory helmets for drivers? Or even just for teens?)

          Discussions about helmets like the one we’re having are extremely familiar to people who make urban cycling part of their life or work. They go nowhere. They never go anywhere. The best thing that they do is make us understand that the solution is engineering, followed by education, all informed by equity, with good designs evident when enforcement is barely needed — and enjoyment a big part of the result.

          Making helmet-wearing optional for everyone is a huge ask, so lowering it by about four years seems a good compromise.

  2. Robert Canning

    Additional thought – what about electric-assist trikes? Do any of the bike share organizations offer these? This would seem to this 65+ year old person that given the aging population this might be something they want to think about.

    1. Todd Edelman

      That’s a great question, Robert. The linked work-in-progress draft of the Ninth Grade proposal – near the end of my Op-Ed – will mention that due to bike share’s status as “not a common carrier”, there is no obligation for things like ADA-compliance with vehicles or any other requirement for adaptive bikes.

      That said, I’ve fully supported adaptive bikes for years – – here is a link of mine from July 2012 about this very issue.  Activists in several cities in the USA have managed to get bike share operators to agree to some kind of at least promotion or a limited amount of administrative integration with organizations and businesses that provide adaptive bikes of various kinds. Also, by next week I have been promised by SACOG staff to get a response to my query about adaptive bikes – just tricycles or e.g. hand-cycles – being exempt from the exclusivity provision between JUMP and SACOG that determines who can operate bike share in the partner cities. This should make it into an update of the Ninth Grade very soon, and possibly in an updated op-ed in another outlet.

      I am not clear why no e.g. disability rights organization in the Sac Area – including UC Davis – has not addressed this issue. I am more than happy to join forces on what can arguably be described as a wider equity issue – or at least a question – beyond age-ism and size-ism.

  3. Don Shor

    I pulled this post earlier because the author didn’t have a proper log-in. Hopefully he or she will resolve that. But the content seems pertinent so I’m copying it in here:

    I’m not sure if Todd is suggesting that the local bike share region (Sacramento, W. Sac, Davis, and UC Davis) is supposed to somehow change the current section of the vehicle code (CVC 21212) that mandates bike helmets for all riders under age 18 or what.  Note CVC 21:  “Except as otherwise expressly provided, the provisions of this code are applicable and uniform throughout the state and in all counties and municipalities therein, and a local authority shall not enact or enforce any ordinance or resolution on the matters covered by this code, including ordinances or resolutions that establish regulations or procedures for, or assess a fine, penalty, assessment, or fee for a violation of, matters covered by this code, unless expressly authorized by this code.”

    In short, Davis can’t create a local ordinance that changes the age restriction of CVC 21212.

    1. Howard P

      Good points… folk that have problems with mandatory helmet use on bikes until 18, should take it up with our State reps…

      [Thanks, Don for posting on their behalf]

      I rode two Davis double century’s in the mid 70’s… very few wore helmets then… now it is mandatory (by sponsors) to participate… I saw horrific crashes… have no stats on head injuries… the helmet thing is getting silly…

      Back to “bike-share”?  The actual topic?  And yes, realize I contributed to the “drift” as did several others…

      And as to “size” or “weight”-ism… a point Todd brought up… I have two sons over 210 lbs (in their 30’s)… adults, big shoulders, etc.  When they buy bikes, they get stronger frames, which are heavier… Todd appears to say those of us more slender (145) should ride heavier bikes to participate… I don’t care, because I have a darn good, appropriately sized and weighted bike.

      Where would one draw the line on “body weight” to get to a ‘standard/minimum bike’?   240, 250, 300 lbs, more?  What does that mean for someone 120-190 lbs?  Whatever… not my issue, just saying…

      1. Todd Edelman

        Howard P, the JUMP Bikes user agreement has a 210 lb. weight limit. Any user above the weight is in violation of the agreement. In my opinion it is absurd and mechanically-unnecessary. A decent bike with decent wheels, proper tire pressure and no jumping of curbs or riding on H St. in Davis (until the parcel tax allows us to stop slacking on the pothole attacks) can easily carry a 350 to 400 lb. rider. A bike share bike that’s used multiple times a day which has to be reliable for long periods under little direct company supervision has to be a tough bike. From what I’ve seen the Jump e-bike fits these requirements. Their electric “boost” will make them feel light enough for people not used to heavy bikes.

    2. Todd Edelman

      To be clear, the proposed Ninth Strategy is for all of California… you can see the whole deal – work-in-progress – in the Google Docs link near the end of the Op-Ed. (It would be fun to ask the DPD to not enforce the state helmet mandate, or to make Davis a sanctuary city for helmet freedom…)

      (Thanks Don… I saw that comment and responded, but it vanished…)

  4. darelldd

    It was inevitable that the discussion would tend toward helmet use and how many injuries and/or lives helmets can save.

    If reduction in injuries and deaths is important (it is, right?) we should stop wasting time on bicycle helmet use, and start putting concerted effort into significantly reducing the crashes and collisions that are the cause of these serious injuries (Hint: Lack of helmet is not what is threatening and injuring cyclists)

    We don’t make bike renters safe by forcing them to wear a helmet. We make them safe by giving them proper infrastructure, and not hitting them with our cars.

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