Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Taking a Spin with Bike Sharing


It has been a slow week on the bike here in Orlando, due to the rainy weather that we have had for the past two days. I have still been commuting, but there haven't been too many extra miles logged.

Today on NPR's Marketplace, I heard a good interview concerning bike sharing systems here in the United States. I had heard about these plans, and even saw them in Paris a few years ago, but I wasn't completely sure how they worked. Below is a link to the article, and the audio about the bike share program starts at minute 22.5.

NPR Marketplace Podcast

The company that is profiled in the article is B-cycle, which is a collaboration between Humana, Trek, and Crispin Porter + Bogusky. They started the bike sharing programs in Europe and based them on the popular car-share programs. Now there are multiple bike sharing stations in dozens of cities. In Paris alone, there are over 100,000 riders per day, so we are already playing catch-up here in the States.

B-cycle stations have started popping up here in the US in several large cities and initiatives have been started to get stations put here in Orlando. Boston has the largest amount of B-cycles in America, with 1000 bikes, and I can't hardly imagine what Orlando would look like with 1000 cyclists cruising around.


The concept is quite simple; B-cycle systems accept memberships that give the user a "debit card" to use as many times as they want for the monthly fee. Walk-up riders can use a credit card that is debited for the minimum amount, as well as ensuring an available balance just in case the bike is not returned. The rider can then go wherever they want and return the bike to any station in the city.

The program does have its issues that have to be worked out in a city by city fashion. Any city that adds a few thousand bikes to its network will automatically need more infrastructure--kiosks, bike lanes, and specially designed bikes that are rugged and theft resistant. It costs Boston more than $3 million a year to run its program. That comes from government money, private sponsors, and bike rental fees. The theft problem has been slowed by adding electronic identification chips and GPS devices in the bikes.

If bike sharing sounds like something that you would like in your city, click this link to B-cycle, and click on the "Who Wants it More" button and add your name to the map of petitions.

The rest of the week looks much better for cycling, so get out there and getting riding!

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