Bike Sharing, American Style
Bike sharing, which transformed European cities like Paris and Barcelona, is now taking root in North America. The idea is simple: provide high-quality bikes at handy spots around town that can easily be rented for short rides with a credit card or annual membership and returned to any number of convenient stations scattered around the city.
Montreal launched its system in 2009 with 3,000 shared bikes on the streets. In 2010, bike sharing spread to Minneapolis, Denver, Chicago, Des Moines and Washington, D.C. San Francisco, Boston, New York, San Antonio and many other cities are following with plans for their own systems. Not only does bike sharing make it easier to get around, it provides a boost to the city’s image that can attract businesses and spur other improvements.
(right) Bike share programs make it easier to get around by providing access to a fleet of bikes stationed at convenient locations throughout a city, which can be rented with a credit card and returned to any other station. Credit: City of Minneapolis
A Strong Start for Minneapolis’ NiceRide
In its first year, the Minneapolis system disarmed skeptics who said bike sharing would never work in America. In June, 700 bikes hit the streets at 65 stations and were taken for more 100,000 rides before winter. Only three bikes were vandalized, two stolen and there were no reported injuries. Financially, the system wound up in the black and will be expanded in 2011.