Bike Sharing on the Rise

An article in yesterday’s New York Times covers the growing number of bike-sharing programs sprouting up around the world.

In increasingly green-conscious Europe, there are said to be only two kinds of mayors: those who have a bicycle-sharing program and those who want one.

Over the last several years, the programs have sprung up and taken off in dozens of cities, on a scale no one had thought possible and in places where bicycling had never been popular.

Read the article

2 Responses to “Bike Sharing on the Rise”

  • brad says:

    Although bike-sharing programs sound like a nifty idea, and we have one starting up in my own city, I’m skeptical about them. Who’s going to use shared bikes? Tourists, maybe. Apartment dwellers who have no place to store a bike of their own, maybe (although here in Montreal most people keep their bikes locked outside, exposed to the elements, all year round). But a workable used bike can be had so cheaply that I imagine most people would prefer to own their own bikes.

    For cars, sharing programs like ZipCar make a lot of sense because the cost of ownership and maintenance is high. But this is not the case to bikes. There’s very little barrier to ownership of your own bike, and the typically $30 to $50 fee for a bike-sharing program can go a long way toward the purchase price of your own urban beater-bike.

    In general I agree with the sentiments compellingly expressed by the owners of Curbside Bicycles in Toronto, in a recent blog entry: Bike-sharing programs may make sense in cities without a current cycling culture, but for those that already have plenty of cyclists I’m not sure what value they add.

  • Sean says:

    Bike sharing programs free riders from a number of things. Most obviously, they need not incur the expense of purchasing a bike and accessories such as a lock. They are free from maintaining the bike; storing it; worrying about it getting stolen; and getting it home if it rains, snows, or their plans suddenly change. Sharing programs also provide a parking space, which frees riders from hunting for an available bike rack, lamp post, etc. There is a good deal of appeal, and not just for tourists. Also, since the programs are often handled by private companies and financed through advertising, cities have little to lose by having one.

    It’s important to remember that “strong cycling culture” is a relative term. Even in places such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam, with well-regarded cycling cultures, the majority of people don’t use a bicycle as their primary means of transport. In Montreal, I imagine probably no more than a few percent of the population commutes by bicycle.

    Now, sharing programs are no guarantee, I agree. There is always the chance that they could be unsuccessful. But, the success rate of new programs such as Velib in Paris and this one in Barcelona seems to indicate otherwise. A sharing program may be the spark that gets some people riding, and there seems to be little risk in trying to find out.

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