Bike sharing allows individuals convenient access to a bike when they need one, without the hassles and costs associated with private bicycle ownership. The idea behind bike sharing is to provide free or affordable access to bicycles, specifically for short-distance trips within city limits. While bike sharing first emerged in cities across Europe, today it is becoming increasingly popular in the U.S. Some of the early adopters of the bike share system include Denver, CO; Minneapolis, MN; Chicago, IL; and Washington D.C. By successfully integrating a bike share program into existing transportation systems, cities can ensure that a greater number of residents have access to affordable, efficient, and sustainable transit options.
Bicycling can replace the need for individual car trips – especially for traveling short distances within a city. By doing so bicycling can reduce overall gasoline consumption and production of carbon emissions, resulting in improved air quality. A safe and connected bike network can also reduce traffic congestion and the need for increased parking facilities. In addition to benefits to the natural and physical environment, bicycling can also improve the overall health and wellness of residents by promoting a more active lifestyle and can serve to create a stronger sense of place and community. Financially, bicycling is one of the most affordable modes of transportation and can serve to increase mobility and access to goods and services within a community for those unable to reach these destinations by car or other forms of public transportation. Bike sharing programs provide an opportunity for cities to promote and facilitate bike ridership in a community and demonstrate their commitment to active, healthy, and alternative forms of transportation.
While the specific components of bike share systems may vary by city, successful programs tend to involve the following elements, each requiring different levels of effort and engagement on behalf of the city:
- Assess and improve existing bicycle infrastructure to ensure the adequate provision of bike lanes, path networks, and stations
- Revisit existing transportation and land use plans and policies; conduct feasibility studies to identify opportunities to incorporate and expand bicycle infrastructure throughout the city.
- Prior to implementation, conduct research on private (banks, healthcare providers, non-profit organizations, or advertising companies) and public (local, regional or federal grants) funding opportunities.
- Partner with local non-profit organizations or other community partners to provide basic education on cycling, maintenance and road safety.
- Increases overall health and wellness of participants by encouraging physical activity
- Improves mobility and access for residents
- Allows for greater connectivity between various transit modes
- Provides an affordable alternative to other transit systems
- Boosts retail exposure and home values
- Reduces parking demands
- Reduces greenhouse gas emissions
- Reduces traffic congestion
Bike share systems, if not properly researched, planned for and marketed to communities, can experience challenges in rider adoption. Common challenges result from a lack of safe, accessible and connected infrastructure, poor design, insufficient supply of bicycles, and varying levels of rider comfort or familiarity with bike systems. Additionally, thorough assessment of community needs and anticipated demands must be conducted in advance to determine appropriate locations and thus avoid underuse resulting from improper placement of bike stations (commonly referred to as kiosks).
As a relatively new technology, there are some risks associated with system failures though these are less common. Finally, bike share system operators, and cities engaged in the promotion of these systems are encouraged to assess all safety risks that may be associated with bike share programs in their communities and take steps to reduce these risks and minimize liability.
The capital and annual operating costs of bike share programs will depend on factors such as the level of service provided, the size of the population and land area served, and the bicycle fleet size. Capital costs include the purchase of bikes and the installation of kiosks throughout the city. Ongoing operating costs include maintenance, distribution, staffing, storage facilities, and marketing of the program.
Bike share programs in the United States are commonly sustained through public–private partnerships. Typically the city provides initial funding and establishes partnerships with a private company to implement and maintain the program; other times the city partners with a third party organization early on to help with fundraising, launching and operating the bike transit system. In Washington D.C. and Chattanooga, Tennessee, for example, Alta Bike Share helped from the early stages of the process. In Minneapolis, Nice Ride Minnesota was formed through the Twin Cities Bike Share Project, an initiative started by Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and the City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation in 2008. The bike share system was then implemented through a combination of public and private funding including funds from FHWA's non-defunct Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program and Blue Cross Shield of Minnesota’s Center for Prevention.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
U. S. Cities with bike share programs currently include:
-Charlotte, North Carolina
-Kansas City, Missouri
-Miami Beach, Florida
-Long Beach, New York
- Federal Transit Administration's Bicycle & Transit Page
- Federal Highway Administration's Bicycle & Pedestrian Page
- Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center Page
Greenhouse gases are a part of the Earth's atmosphere and are both naturally occurring and the result of human chemical processes. The most common greenhouse gases are carbon dioxide, water vapor, methane, nitrous oxide, ozone, and chlorofluourocarbons. These gases trap heat and thus contribute to the warming of the planet. See also CFCS and GREENHOUSE EFFECT.