I was recently asked if bike sharing is a fad. The fact that bike sharing programs are expanding at a very quick pace throughout North America seemed to worry my friend.
She commented on the fact that although the bike share project was somewhat smaller in monetary value, than the other dozen or so projects that she was working on, the bike share project was getting the most attention.
My answer at the time was that bike sharing, has been around since the 60’s: The earliest well-known community bicycle program was started in the 1960s by Luud Schimmelpenninck in association with the radical group Provo in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. This so-called White Bicycle Plan provided free bicycles that were supposed to be used for one trip and then left for someone else. Within a month, most of the bikes had been stolen and the rest were found in nearby canals. The program is still active in some parts of the Netherlands (the Hoge Veluwe National Park; bikes have to stay inside the park). It originally existed as one in a series of White Plans proposed in the street magazine produced by the anarchist group PROVO.
The reasons Bike sharing just seems to be a good idea are simply:
Improve the environment by reducing the impact on residents of pollution and noise, limiting greenhouse gases, and improving the quality of public spaces.
Reduce congestion by shifting short trips (the majority of trips in cities) out of cars. This will also make cities more accessible for public transport, walking, essential car travel, emergency services, and deliveries.
Save lives by creating safer conditions for bicyclists and as a direct consequence improve the safety of all other road users. Research shows that increasing the number of bicyclists on the street improves bicycle safety.
Increase opportunities for residents of all ages to participate socially and economically in the community, regardless income or ability. Greater choice of travel modes also increases independence, especially among seniors and children.
Boost the economy by creating a community that is an attractive destination for new residents, tourists and businesses.
Enhance recreational opportunities, especially for children, and further contribute to the quality of life in the community.
Save city funds by increasing the efficient use of public space, reducing the need for costly new road infrastructure, preventing crashes, improving the health of the community, and increasing the use of public transport.
Enhance public safety and security by increasing the number of “eyes on the street” and providing more options for movement in the event of emergencies, natural disasters, and major public events.
Improve the health and well-being of the population by promoting routine physical activity.
Not a bad set of reasons. With the technology available today it is possible to make the rider accountable for the bicycle.
With New York City, Chicago, Portland and the City of Miami adding bike share solutions as an extension of public transit, it reassured me that bike share is indeed expanding throughout North America at a very quick rate. But is it a fad? Today I read that Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley will be investing a million dollars into the expansion of the Capital Bike share program and that it will expand into Maryland. Mexico City’s Ecobici bike share announced plans for expansions next year, with 180 new stations and roughly 3,000 new bicycles.We are witnessing a great event as public bike share systems are not only doing well, but are expanding!
My final answer: With technology advancements in the past few years to increase the accountability of the user, bike share systems have and will continue to expand throughout North America and the rest of the world as it has in Europe. It just makes sense!
Derrick Moennick – publicbikeshare.com