Energy

February 25, 2013
 

Want to Ride a Bicycle? Innovative Bike Share Programs

bike share

Story by Tricia Edgar
Kalev.com Contributor

Do you want to ride a bicycle? Bike share programs could be the answer.

Moving from street to street in style riding a bicycle, without getting stuck in the back up of urban traffic – ah, that’s the life. Bike shares allow members to borrow a bike, then return it.

In an urban center, walking and biking just makes sense. The streets may be small and crowded, the traffic annoying, and the parking hard to find. With a bike share, you avoid the urban traffic malaise and move around the city quickly and easily.

In North America, bike sharing is growing.  New York City will launch Citi bike in May 2013: this bike sharing program will consist of 600 stations with 10,000 bikes in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. A feasibility study is underway in for a bike share program in downtown Detroit, and Wayne State University is looking for public input on the Detroit Bicycle Sharing website.

Bike sharing has been popular in Europe for some time, but in North America bikes have been considered to be the realm of tough commuters, wiry recreational riders, or flowery-skirted, bike-riding hippies. In Europe, where bike sharing is much more common, the bike has simply won out as a convenient mode of transportation. It’s not uncommon to see women riding bikes in full dress attire, heading off to a business meeting.

Bike shares are a celebration of the convenience of the bike. They bring bikes into urban areas allowing users to get around with a minimum of effort and zero emissions while helping to reduce climate change.

What will 2013 bring in the bike sharing realm? Here are some trends to watch this year:

Setting Up Bike Share Programs on the Cheap

Setting up a bike sharing system can be expensive, and maintaining those fleets of bikes can be pricey too. While bike sharing is good for communities and the environment, those financial costs can hurt. weBike has created a stationless bike share model that allows users to text to get the lock combination for a particular bike. Every bike is numbered. This model works with existing bike shares as well, removing the need to create a lot of bike sharing infrastructure.

Multiple Use Bike Share Stations Get The Traffic

China is leading the way with bike-sharing systems that draw in other users as well. In Hangzhou, they’re installing ATMs at bike sharing stations. The stations also double as bus shelters and electric bike charging stations. The more users, the better the PR. At least that appears to be the case: Hangzhou’s bike share system now boasts an impressive 50,000 bikes, and on an average day, people make 240,000 trips.

Need a bike? Take a bike! Capitol Ride Bike Share. Photo: LollyGotHerAdverbsHere / C.C. by 2.0

Need a bike? Take a bike! Capitol Ride Bike Share.
Photo: LollyGotHerAdverbsHere/C.C. by 2.0

Peer to Peer Bike Sharing: Does It Have Wheels?

Most bike sharing endeavors rely on an organization to do the work of setting up the bike share. This might be a public service or a non-profit, but the work these organizations put in is enormous. But how about a bike sharing service for places where there is no bike share? The peer-to-peer sharing economy is on the rise, and with it come new models for bike sharing. In 2012, the peer-to-peer bike listing service Liquid launched in NYC and San Francisco, and 2013 sees goVelo, an emerging app for peer-to-peer bike sharing. Obviously, these bikes aren’t available on a moment’s notice, but they might be good for those who are visiting a city or those who need a bike for a wee bit longer than an hour or two.

The Wave of the Future

SoBi is a social bicycle app that’s in development, helping bikers live app-ily ever after.  It will allow users to find a bike when they’d like a ride. SoBi is creating GPS-enabled bikes so prospective riders can find that bicycle that’s just around the corner.

Bike sharing is a trend to watch (and ride). Since 2007, global bike sharing programs have multiplied, and as of December 2012 there were nearly 500 bike sharing programs in the world. Some are big, some are tiny, and all have intriguing differences that make them specific to their city and their culture. As these sharing programs grow, the innovations that emerge can make sharing easier and less expensive, encouraging people to hop on a bike to get around town.

Photo: (Featured Image): Bikes lined up in the sunshine. Bike share stations enable users to hop on a bike when they need one.  Image Credit: sillygwailo/C.C. by 2.0

 Related articles on Kalev.com:

The Sharing Economy: Cultivating Community
Commuting: Making Two Wheels or Two Feet the Preferred Option
Pedicabs: Alternative Urban Transportation
Twenty Years of Critical Mass



About the Author

Tricia Edgar
Tricia is a long-time outdoor educator who draws inspiration from the temperate rainforest, where she loves to dabble in creeks, walk along mossy trails, and enjoy the smell of cottonwood in the springtime. She's an adventurer who finds delight in visiting new places and who enjoys going on outdoor adventures with her young daughter. You can find her at www.triciaedgar.com