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City provisions for bike commuters?

by Noah

A common excuse people use for “needing” their car is that they don’t know how they’ll get home if something crops up that would otherwise leave them stranded.  In many cities, an organization provides registered users of alternative transportation with a way to get home in certain situations.

I know some of you are multi-mode commuters, relying on more than just your bike for at least part of the year…  Family medical or personal property emergencies as well as unscheduled overtime forcing you to miss the bus or train are just a few hypothetical situations which are plausibly frightening for those of us who rely on mass transit for part of our daily commute.

Our program in KC is called Guaranteed Ride Home, and is a service provided by Mid America Regional Council in coordination with an area taxi company.  If you’re a frequent user of the Johnson County Transit system, a car- or van-pool, or a bicycle commuter, MARC issues you two free passes per year.  For those in and around Kansas City, check out the link for details..  I’ve personally never had to use this program, but I am a member of it should an emergency crop up.  The one time that my wife had a medical problem while I was at work, the bus schedule was convenient enough to get me across the street from the hospital my wife was at in a timely fashion.

In talking to a lot of locals about the benefits of various methods of alternative transportation in general, many don’t know about our GRH program.  Considering that “what if…” is one of the first reactions from these people, I’d say that programs such as this one can go a long way towards making people more comfortable leaving their cars at home.

Are there similar programs in your area?.  Have you ever had to use it?

 
Burley nomad 229

9 Responses to “City provisions for bike commuters?”

  1. Fritz says:

    I think Guaranteed Ride Home is the universal name nationwide for similar programs. Federal law mandates the creation of a “Metropolitan Planning Organization” for any “urbanized area” with population greater than 50,000 people. Federal transportation funding for that region is funneled through the MPO. The legally mandated functions of MPOs include (1) encourage alternative modes of transportation and (2) developing a “Transportation Improvement Program.” Some sort of Guaranteed Ride Home program is a commonly used tool in the TIP toolbox where public transportation exists.

    If you sit in on enough advisory boards and committee meetings, you learn all kinds of arcane trivia about transportation policy :-)

  2. josh says:

    I recently suggested a program like this to my employer. I would personally never use something like this because I am fortunate enough to have plenty of family and friends that would give me a ride if I needed it. This does seem to be a common excuse for people to not try commuting by bike, and therefore I think it’s important to put in place so that people will have one less excuse.
    It seems like every time it rains, people start offering me rides home. They assume that I’ll melt or something. Those same people would hesitate to ride because it might rain, and then how would they get home?!?
    I hope my employer goes for it, but I won’t hold my breath.

  3. Alyssa says:

    I assume Fritz is right, because the Washington DC metropolitan area program (in Maryland, at least) is also called Guaranteed Ride home. The one time I have felt the need to take advantage of the service they provide, however, I was unable to.

    Though I was not a bike commuter at the time, I have always been a multi-modal commuter, relying on either a commuter train service or a commuter bus to get me home from the end of the DC Metro subway line. Both the bus and the train have limited schedules, especially heading towards where I live. Thanks to delays on the Metro one evening, I missed my connections to both the bus and train. When I called Guaranteed Ride Home, I was told the service wasn’t suitable for those circumstances. While I already knew the program was restricted to three rides per year, the woman I spoke to that I could only get a ride home through them if I’d called before leaving the office and/or had (written) proof from a supervisor explaining that I had needed to stay late working.

    I realize they want to safeguard against people abusing the services, but that seems excessively restrictive to me when it’s supposedly meant to help with unexpected delays in getting home.

  4. Ghost Rider says:

    Our is called Bay Area Commuter Services (http://www.tampabayrideshare.org/aboutbacs.htm)…it appears to be funded by the FL Dept. of Transportation. The specific commuter service is known as “Emergency Ride Home”…useable up to 8 times a year with a simple, free registration!

    I’ve never used it but it takes a load off my mind should some crisis spring up.

  5. Steve says:

    People that ask me “what would you do if you had a problem with your bike getting home?” tend to get a funny look in their eyes when I flip the question around and say, “what would you do if you had a problem with your car getting home?” Whenever it’s happened to me, I’ve either walked home (a 12km commute is walkable in 2 and a half hours in heavy snow conditions here in Halifax, or drivable in 5 hours) or locked my bike up somewhere and called a cab or jumped on a bus.

    I don’t think there’s any similar plan to GRH in Halifax, but it’s a small enough city that I don’t think I’d need it.

  6. Josh says:

    I don’t think anyone NEEDs it, but a lot of people THINK they need it, and that’s why I think it’s important. It might help someone get over the mental hump that prevents them from giving bicycle commuting a serious try.

  7. Noah says:

    Indeed, most people don’t need their car, which is why I put it in quoted in my post. For the most part, the automobile is to most car-commuters what their blankie or teddy bear was to them when they were 4. Billions of people world-wide got to work today without driving a single-occupant car. Millions of them in the US used a bus, a car pool, a bicycle, the power of their own two feet or some combination of the above.

    There are some who truly need their cars. And there were a dozen days last year that I really needed mine, much to my dismay. It really is all in the head for many people, though.

  8. Dingbat says:

    Your post led me to google and find my own employer’s guaranteed ride home program, which would have served incredibly well when my wife and I were both deathly sick and our daughter was injured at day care. Signing up today!

  9. Eric says:

    Unfortunately for me, the “Guaranteed Ride Home” program in my area doesn’t apply; I work in the wrong city.

    There’s a really reliable method for getting around when your bike is broken down and you’ve just missed the bus (or something like that): a taxi.

    In my case that means a worst case of $40 one-way (all the way from home to work or vice-versa) or a best case of about $10 (a mile or two hop from a bus station; walkable but worth $10 if it’s raining heavily or late and need to get up early, etc.) (those prices include a bit of a tip, and I live in a suburban area; so cheaper if you don’t tip or you’re in a more urban area)

    I have to ask when I call for a cab, but some of the taxis are minivans that can fit my bike after I remove the front wheel.

    I’ve managed to go years without owning a car at all; using bus and bike mostly, but with taxis for those weird situations or for things like a nice dinner out.

    Taking a taxi all the way from work to home a few times a month would still be cheaper than owning a car, and in reality I’ve found the need to use a taxi to replace part of the commute only comes up once every few months, and usually I can still take a bus for some part of the trip and keep the price lower.

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