Bicycle-Sharing Systems let you pedal your way to better health

A bike share stand in New York City, USA. Photo - New York City Department of Transportation via Creative Commons License

We all want to feel healthier, and many people these days 'want to do their part' to lower their personal carbon footprint. One way to accomplish both at the same time is to ride a bike whenever you can. It is obviously a good thing to do.

But when you are traveling, it can be difficult to lug your bike around just so that you can take a daily, hour-long ride in Naples, Barcelona, Miami, or other warm and sunny place.

You may be surprised to know just how many bikes are available for rent at low cost, or are completely free to use, from the so-called Bicycle Sharing Systems (BSS) in many of the world's cities. The total number of bikes available from these various systems around the world at the end of 2011, was 236,000 bicycles. That's right, from 5 European-only operations with less than 100 bicycles ten years ago - to over 375 BSS's worldwide, with 236,000 bikes in almost every country as of 31 December, 2011. BSS is a textbook definition of high growth!

According to Wikipedia, the Hangzhou Public Bicycle programme, which was launched in 2008 in China, is the largest bicycle sharing system in the world, with around 61,000 bicycles and over 2,400 stations. The Vélib in Paris, which encompasses 20,000 bicycles and 1,450 bicycle stations is the largest outside of China. Other countries with similar systems are Spain (100+), Italy (80), and Germany (50).

There are many compelling reasons to have a bike-sharing operation in your city or town. If you drive part-way to work in the city, many cities have convenient and low cost parking areas for your car which is where you pick up a bike. Done with your bike? Just pull out your smartphone, it will display a drop-off point close to you.

Does your city have a bike-sharing program or low cost bike-rentals? If it doesn't, ask why not.

Solar powered bike-docking stations are popping up across New York City in preparation for the launch of the United States' largest bike-sharing program, CitiBike. The initial roll-out of the program will include 300 stations and 5,500 bikes. A few years ago, the city's department of transportation (otherwise known as NYC Dot) started replacing single-space parking meters with bike parking. Now, many more parking spaces will be converted into CitiBike hubs. – Meribeth Deen, EnergyBoom.com

Cities like Washington, D.C., can't install bike stations fast enough to keep up with the demand -- even with their time-weighted pricing schedule. The D.C. program has been called a victim of it's own success.

  • From a government perspective, having healthier citizens will help to lower total health infrastructure expenditures and overall health care costs, while cleaner air and less traffic congestion in downtown or tourist areas can improve access, lower infrastructure costs and improve the visitor experience -- meaning visitors might stay longer and spend more money
  • For daily commuters or for tourists from outside the immediate area, adding the option of affordable bikes, means lower gasoline and parking costs. It adds convenience, health and enjoyment to their visit

So, the next time you are planning to run errands downtown all day (and trying to find parking spots) or if you are enjoying a weekend at the beach, ask yourself; Would my life be more enjoyable and would I spend less money on parking fees and gasoline, if I simply rented a bike?

Of course it would. Enjoy getting that extra sunshine! It will do you a world of good.


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