Save Gas: Join a Bike Share Program

While already quite common in European cities, dozens of public bike-sharing programs are now finally popping up around the U.S. from Washington, D.C., to Tucson and Minneapolis. The latest city to announce its foray into bike sharing is Nashville, which plans to start with a fleet of 30 bikes and expand to thousands more by next spring. Boston is also on the verge of a city-wide service. The federal government recently gave Beantown $3 million for its planned bike sharing program on track to launch next spring.

Thanks to its cost efficiency and environmental friendliness, bike sharing is currently the fastest growing form of transportation worldwide. CityRyde's bike sharing consultants tell me that by the end of 2010 you can expect at least a few dozen more bike-share systems here in the States.

How much do they cost?

Bike share programs typically charge customers a flat monthly rate - $40 to $60 - and that often gives members access to bikes for up to 24 hours a day. For example, in Washington, D.C., a one-year subscription to the city's SmartBike program costs $40. The plan in Boston is to charge $5 a day or $85 a year. Not a bad savings, when you consider the average tank of gas usually runs $30 to $40.

Where can I find one?

Because there are no national chains, you'll need to search locally for independent bike shares and ask around. On the Web, search "bike shares" and the name of your town or city. You should also search for bike shares around a local college or university, since that's where some are popping up, too.

Don't forget to ask for a student discount!

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Photo courtesy llamnudds' phototream on flickr