If there is a short, semi-local trip you have been wanting to take and have wondered if there is a more eco-friendly way of getting to your destination, you may be in luck. Cities everywhere are taking part in bike share programs allowing people to pick up a bike at a self-serve bike station and return it to another station. The rental transactions are all automated so there is no need to have on-site staff with the hours of operation, just grab a bike and go.
BicyclingInfo.org contains more information about bike shares, including where they exist as well as published studies focusing on their success and how it has been implemented and utilized. Some of the major cities that have implemented this program already include: Chicago, IL, Denver, CO, Houston, TX, Los Angeles, CA, Miami Beach, FL, New York, NY, Pittsburg, PA, Portland, OR, Salt Lake City, UT, San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA, and Washington, DC (click here to see the full list).
According to the "Bike Sharing in the United States: State of the Practice and Guide to Implementation" by the Toole Design Group and the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center PBIC (2012), the average cost of setting up the program is between $4,200 to $5,400 per bicycle, which includes system staff support. These programs are currently being funded by Federal, State, local governments, private donations, memberships and usage fees. In March 2012, an estimation of 40 operating, or soon-to-be operating programs, in the U.S. were implemented with main support from local governments. Since it is somewhat pricy to implement these programs, there are many considerations when deciding whether or not they are worth pursuing in certain areas. They are usually placed in regions that are bike-friendly, contain favorable climate and landscape to bicycling, the area is highly populated with access to mass transportation and there are locations available for stations to be placed no more than a half a mile apart.
In 2008, Washington, DC was the first major city to develop the bike share program and had 10 stations with 120 bicycles. Within the first two years, about 1,600 people joined what was called SmartBike D.C. and in 2012, Alexandria, VA joined the bike share program and established eight stations. Then, in 2013, Montgomery County joined as well. In 2010, it was renamed Capital Bikeshare.
As bike sharing programs expand and become more popular around the nation, they can help decrease personal transportation costs, minimize traffic congestion, decrease pressures of parking, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and encourage a healthier, more active lifestyle. Current studies are being performed in order to determine what works and what does not to ensure that it is improved where needed to be successful. The biggest setbacks in the past were vandalism and theft; however, with new technology, it is easier to establish an automated machine that enables people to rent a bike and keep track of who used it, making users more accountable. Bike share programs have been successful and are continuing to become more popular over time.
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Stephanie Siemek is a freelance writer whose work can be found on Examiner.com.
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