View Full Version : Gabe Klein interview on Kojo Nnamdi show, WAMU 88.5 FM, Thur. Apr. 24, 12-1 pm

04-23-2014, 07:56 PM

"Bicycles, Urban Areas and Public Infrastructure


Capital BikeShare, the bicycle-sharing program in the Washington region, launched four years ago and is widely seen as a success. But similar efforts in other urban areas are falling flat. Gabe Klein, the District's former transportation director, joins Kojo to explore the dynamics at work in the adoption of bicycle sharing in D.C. - and what they say about the evolving nature of public transportation infrastructure.


Gabe Klein
Fellow, Urban Land Institute; Former Director, District of Columbia Department of Transportation"

04-24-2014, 07:53 PM
The transcript of the show is now available:


I thought it was a pretty good talk. Mr. Klein is clearly very intelligent and very enthusiastic about bikeshare. He was one of the key players in D.C. transportation at the time that Capital Bikeshare started up.

The callers had decent questions as well. They did include the usual comments about the lack of helmets and "scofflaw cyclists" (a statement made by "someone who is actually a cyclist, but is concerned about all of the other cyclists he sees breaking traffic laws"), but Klein had good answers. Maybe not 100% complete, but there isn't enough time in a one-hour talk to cover all the details of bikeshare in D.C. and elsewhere. He only spoke to total fatalities in Chicago, when he might have focused on the statistics about head injuries. (As far as I know, there have been no serious head injuries among CaBi riders at all. Or if there have been any, the total number is very low. The system has had millions of individual bike trips over 3.5 years, with many beginner cyclists and many who are completely unfamiliar with D.C. and yet the number of head injuries is nonexistent or exceedingly low. This despite the fact that relatively few CaBi users wear helmets.)

Klein did point out that the slow and sturdy bikes tend to make CaBi riding even safer than regular cycling (on lighter and faster hybrid and road bikes).

As for the "scofflaw" question, he pointed out that it's different for a 4,000-lb. car to run a STOP sign, compared with a cyclist. I thought he should have emphasized the fact that most car drivers break multiple traffic laws every day, just as the caller said that all the cyclists he sees break multiple traffic laws every day. Klein was also being positive so he didn't mention the fact that car drivers kill so many people every year, in the D.C. region and nationwide.

He does think that Citibike in NYC can work, despite its current struggles (which largely arise from the fact that NYC is treating bikeshare as a business instead of a transportation system, and ignoring the fact that all transportation systems are heavily subsidized). He mentioned that car travel is heavily subsidized, so it's odd for so many to object to subsidies for bikeshare.

As for Bixi, he slammed them for being mismanaged. (He's right about that.) He said that Bixi deserved to go bankrupt. He then mentioned the purchase of Bixi International (the division that exports the Bixi systems to other cities and systems) and he also noted the new Alta-8D Technologies partnership. Klein said that Capital Bikeshare and other systems would now have more than one option for expansion in the future. I hope he's correct about this. I think he is, although I'm still waiting to hear updates from Alta and 8D about their equipment plans.

Despite the callers I mentioned above, most of the callers were enthusiastic about Capital Bikeshare and bikeshare in general. Klein provided a brief history of large bikeshare systems, with the earliest one being installed in Paris. (There were bikeshare systems in smaller cities or small systems in large cities, but no major Western city had a large bikeshare network until Paris. I don't know about Chinese cities.) He also summarized the creation of Capital Bikeshare. He mentioned SmartBike as a pilot program, and Arlington's importance in the creation of the first large region-wide bikeshare system in the U.S with Capital Bikeshare. (I think the very first stations were installed in Crystal City, though Klein didn't mention that.)

The producers also played a clip from the Queen song "Bicycle Race". ("I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike...) Rock on!