Bike Sharing Boom in Cities
Bike sharing sure has come a long way since the failed Yellow Bike Project of 1994 in Portland, Oregon. With the launch of New York City’s first system next spring coinciding with similar plans in other cities, it appears that bikes and bike stations may become as widespread and popular as they are in Canada and throughout Europe.
The concept of designating a certain number of bikes for unrestricted use has many economical and environmental advantages. It should come as no surprise to hear that that owning a car is expensive. With the national price per gallon at $3.30, we are spending an average of $50 per tank. This figure stands on the low end of the annual cost of membership in existing bike share initiatives ($45-$85). For the price of what it takes many to drive just 400 miles you could have access to a bike in different areas of your town or city every day.
As for sustainability, choosing bikes is a no brainer. The best way to reduce emissions is to simply stop emitting GHGs. After their initial production the only environmental costs of bikes concern maintenance and repair. And like remote roadside emergency phones, many of the rental stations are powered independently using solar cells.
Since 2009 three companies have designed 15 privately owned programs in cities around the US. Bixi, B-Cycle and Sandvault systems have been developed to ensure customer satisfaction with every ride. Where other initiatives have failed in the past, effective measures have been ensured for locking, availability and protection against vandalization. The companies have shown that the better planned, designed and advocated for the programs are, the more the public will accrue the benefits.
Consisting of 1,300 bikes on 156 different stations “Capital Bikeshare” is the country’s largest operation to date. Located in D.C. since May of 2010 and owned by Atla Bicycle Share (the same company in charge of New York City), the program utilizes the Bixi design first implemented in Montréal back in 2009. Not only does Capital Bikeshare have around 16,000 annual members but each bike traveled an average of 400 miles per day.
Again the cost for this is cheap. Participation in Capital Bikeshare is only $7 per day, $15 for 3 days, $25 for 1 month or $75 for the year. Once a member, you receive a key that links directly to your bank card. Each day you get the first 30 minutes on any bike for free before having to pay $1.50 for every additional hour. That means if your one-way commute is less than 15 minutes you never have to pay another dime after the initial cost.
Three other major programs with more than 500 available bikes are “Hubway” in Boston, “Nice Ride” in Minnesota and “DecoBike” in Miami – Hubway recorded 140,000 trips on their bikes in the last four months.
It’s no surprise that global populations are urbanizing at the fastest rate in history. Already over 3 and a half billion people live in cities worldwide. That number is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years. If we keep wasting money on transportation costs there will be less money to exchange within the local community. The best way for America to create jobs is to keep micro economic flows in motion. This tremendous shift of people offers a great opportunity for everyone to get out of the car and back on the streets.
Previous bike sharing efforts have failed due to a lack of interest and a lack of education. The sooner these programs can become a part of our daily lives the sooner we can sign onto them and reap the benefits to begin drastically cutting down our daily expenses and reducing our emissions.
Make your own plans to get out of a car and onto a bike for next spring now.