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    Baton Rouge Bikeshare Program Seeing Success Despite COVID-19

    By Olivia Montgomery, LCF Intern

    Across the country, cities are rethinking the way they invest in transportation infrastructure. Baton Rouge in particular has joined a growing list of cities investing in bikeshare programs, one piece of a larger trend of services known as shared micromobility, which generally refers to share programs offering bikes, scooters, or e-bikes. Gotcha bikes, offered in the Baton Rouge area, are e-bikes that allow the rider to pedal or coast with the electric motor.

    From a sustainability perspective, these programs offer a great way to reduce automobile use by providing a quick and easy means of transportation for those rides that are too short for a drive and too long for a conventional bike. More broadly, bikeshare programs also offer economic benefits in that they can encourage economic development in certain areas, expand the reach of current public transit options, and improve public health.

    How to Ride

    As of July 2019, Gotcha bikes are available to rent on a pay-per-minute basis in Baton Rouge. Riders can download the Gotcha app to sign up, find docking station locations, and scan the bike to pay and ride. Once finished, riders can deposit the bike at any other station in the city. There are 17 locations downtown, in addition to stations near LSU, Southern University, and the Perkins Road overpass. The cost to rent is currently a $2 fee, plus $.10 per minute, or riders can purchase yearly or monthly subscriptions.

    Current Success

    According to the National Association of City Transportation Officials, the number of shared micromobility rides doubled from 2017 to 2018. Today, COVID-19 seems to be aiding the trend of growth. Nationwide, cities have closed streets or limited their capacity to create more space for socially distanced foot and bike traffic and to reduce reliance upon crowded public transit, naturally creating more demand for bikeshare rides.

    Though Baton Rouge has not made major changes to traffic flow, the impact of COVID-19 on bikeshare rides is similar in the capital area. On May 4, 2020, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation’s newsletter reported “Ridership is up 213% overall even though LSU students are no longer on campus. Trips per day had grown to nearly 600 on April 26, when the bikeshare company reported its latest activity. Weekly active riders soared to 1,500 in late April from less than 100 before COVID-19.”

    Some see this moment as an opportunity for changes that last beyond the pandemic. Former New York City transit commissioner Jannette Sadik-Kahn recently stated that this is a “once-in-a-lifetime chance to change course and repair the damage from a century of car-focused streets.” Coincidentally, one challenge Baton Rouge faces in growing its bikeshare program is the lack of comfortable bike paths and trails throughout the city. In fact, there are few, if any, comfortable trails connecting the clusters of docking stations throughout the city (i.e. LSU or Southern to downtown). Further, the City’s Bike Share Business and Implementation Plan includes expanding docking locations into different areas in a series of phases. However, one must ask how beneficial bikeshare access will be in areas with no sidewalks or bike lanes.

    Considering the increased demand for bikeshare rides, further strengthened by the COVID-19 pandemic, now is the time for Baton Rouge streets to become more bike-friendly. Over time, as shared micromobility increases, the positive impact on the city’s carbon emissions, car-congested streets, and more will become apparent.

    For more information, check out the following resources:

    Baton Rouge Ride Gotcha

    Baton Rouge's bike-sharing program sees dramatic uptick in ridership amid coronavirus pandemic

    COVID-19 Reveals How Micromobility Can Build Resilient Cities

    Webinars on COVID-19 and Micromobility

    Biking Provides a Critical Lifeline During the Coronavirus Crisis 

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