It’s a Win Win, So Give it a Try

Do you live in or near a city? Are you tired of traffic, congestion and delays? Do you wish that you had more time to exercise, but rarely manage to actually get out and get your heart pumping and break a sweat? Try using one of the over 500,000 bicycles that are now part of advanced bike-sharing programs in more than 500 cities in 49 countries. 

Cities with bike-sharing programs are finding that promoting the bicycle as an option can lead to more mobility and safer streets for all. Let alone the reduced use of gasoline based transportation and the resulting reduction in exhaust. Bike-sharing programs are well positioned to hook people up with a bus or metro system, accommodating the last mile or so between home or work and mass transit. 

Modern bike-sharing systems have greatly reduced the theft and vandalism that hindered earlier programs by using easily identified specialty bicycles with unique parts that would have little value to a thief, by monitoring the cycles’ locations with radio frequency or GPS, and by requiring credit card payment or smart-card-based membership in order to check out bikes.

As of last month, there were 26 active modern public programs in the United States, a number expected to double within the next two years. The largest U.S. program in early 2013 was Capital Bikeshare, with more than 1,800 bicycles spread across 200 stations in Washington, DC and nearby communities. Nice Ride Minnesota, covers the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, comes in second, with 1,550 bikes at 170 stations. The Boston metropolitan reports 1,100 shared bikes. Miami Beach is planning to add 500 bikes to the existing 1,000 it has and will extend into Miami this year. Denver is one of more than 15 public systems that give members access to bikes when they travel to different cities, including Madison, Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, San Antonio, Charlotte, and Kansas City.

New York’s Citi Bike program is poised to roll out 5,500 bicycles at 293 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn this month, with the ultimate goal of reaching 10,000 bikes. Chicago plans to start in June, working up to 4,000 bikes at 400 stations in 2014. Southern California reports bike sharing programs opening in Los Angeles (4,000 bikes), Long Beach (2,500), and San Diego (1,800). A pilot project of 1,000 bikes in San Francisco and Bay Area cities south along the rail line hopes to begin what could ultimately be a 10,000-bike program.

As impressive as these numbers are, and there are comparable stories throughout Europe, North and South America, and Asia, not surprisingly, China dwarfs these growing programs with 79 bike-sharing programs, with a combined fleet of around 358,000 bicycles in early 2013. Expansions and new projects could soon bring China’s public bike fleet to just less than 1 million bicycles.