Bicycle-Sharing Systems: Pedal your way to Better Health

by John Brian Shannon John Brian Shannon

Honk your horn, if you want better health!
BIXI bike sharing systems are found in many cities. Image courtesy of: BIXI

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 anytime you can. It is so obviously, a good thing to do. But when you’re traveling, it can be difficult to lug your bike around so that you can take your daily ride around Naples, Barcelona, Miami Beach, or other warm and sunny place.

It may surprise you to know how many bikes are available to rent at low cost from so-called Bicycle Sharing Systems (BSS) in many of the world’s cities.

The total number of bikes available from the various BSS’s  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 Dec 31st, 2011, BSS is a textbook definition of high growth!

Launched in 2008, the Hangzhou Public Bicycle programme 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 systems are Spain (100+), Italy (80), and Germany (50). – Wikipedia

According to the Bike-sharing World Map info — just the cities and towns beginning with the letter “A” boast some 5000 bikes which are available only by coin deposit and high-tech (pre-paid passcard or credit card) but the numbers may be even higher, as accurate record-keeping is difficult to maintain with high rates of growth.

Vélib bike sharing system
One of the first bike share systems, Vélib is also the most successful. It also maintains an excellent bike sharing blog. Image courtesy of Vélib

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

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 in the car (and trying to find parking spots) or if you are enjoying a weekend at the beach, ask yourself this;

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!