Spending $50,000 on Bike Showers a Waste of Tax Dollars

Bike stations as shown in the Arlington Hike and Bike plan
Monday, January 30, 2012 - 1:26am

Arlington citizens blocked most of the city’s bike plan nonsense; however, the same can’t be said in Fort Worth, where taxpayer dollars continue to be squandered on bike lanes and traffic calming devices that are producing little results. And now come bike showers…

A recent Star-Telegram editorial endorsed the spending of $50,000 tax dollars to build five showers and a locker room for bicycle-riding employees at Fort. Worth’s city hall, saying that, “if just 5 percent of inactive employees begin exercising it could produce savings of $500,000 in increased productivity and reduction of workers’ compensation and medical costs.”

This claim makes no sense.

Five percent of Fort Worth’s 6,200 work force is 310 people, but just five showers are proposed at a cost of $10,000 each—two stalls for women, two for men and one that is accessible by people with disabilities.

While we don’t know how many Fort Worth city employees have disabilities that permit them to ride a bike a considerable distance to work daily in any sort of weather, we do know that facilities accessible to the disabled, including bike changing stations such as this, may be used by anyone when the facility is not occupied by a disabled person. So theoretically no shower need go unused.

But how does one get 310 city employees through a changing station each morning with just five showers and five lockers, and still have them at their desks on time? How much time would each user need? Let’s say each person needs 20 minutes to strip off sweaty spandex, shower, freshen up and go to a locker and then dress for success. Even at a tight 20 minutes, and assuming 310 people somehow are able to share five showers, it would take 103.4 hours to get everyone cleaned.
Given that there are only 24 hours in a day, we don’t see how a bike changing station built to accommodate five people can process 310, even using an imaginative flex time schedule.

The fact is, very few people will elect to bike and shower as a result of these improvements. The ones who do will be avid bike riders. These folks are already fit. 310 couch potatoes are not going to take up biking to work, and without them Fort Worth tax payers won’t save a dime via “increased productivity and reduction of workers’ compensation and medical costs.”

What Fort Worth taxpayers will receive is a $50,000 white elephant, one that requires a further $10,000 or so per year in additional janitorial service, security and maintenance.

Bicycle parking can be introduced in a number of ways: Zoning code improvements (requirements for bicycle • parking spaces with new development). Public right-of-way bike rack additions (for short-term • parking). Bicycle stations (enhanced bike parking areas with lockers • and other features). End-of-trip facilities to also include showers/changing • stations especially at places of work. (p.68 of Arlington Hike and Bike Master Plan)

Changing stations, and bicycle facilities remain a part of the Arlington Hike and Bike plan (full .pdf). This sort of nonsensical spending is diverting money from meaningful street improvements that increase capacity and ease traffic congestion.

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