It was Summer 2010. I was working in Minneapolis for the summer, and I’d met up with a friend for lunch. She was driving me back to work when her car was rear-ended. While she filed a police report, called her insurance company, and waited for a tow truck, I started to panic. We were stuck! There was no good bus route back! I was going to be late!
But then I remembered Nice Ride, the new bike-share program popping up all over town. I hoofed two blocks to a kiosk, checked out a bike, and was back at work within 25 minutes. (And the system was new enough to turn some heads – I heard a couple of “Hey, Nice Ride” shouts en route.) Since then, I’ve been a big evangelist.
You may have seen bike-sharing systems in the news lately. New York City is about to launch the country’s largest bike-share program. Boston, Washington DC, Denver, Miami, and Minnesota’s Twin Cities have large, thriving programs. Nearly five million trips have already been made in just Washington DC. But New York’s will be by far the largest, with plans for 10,000 public bikes eventually available.
Here’s how it works: You sign up for a year, a month, or a day. You check out a bike, ride anywhere, and return the bike to any station, within 30 or 45 minutes. Or, you can keep it longer, and pay a small fee per hour.
I’ve ridden the B-Cycle in Denver and the Capital Bikeshare in D.C. (I haven’t tried the Boston-area Hubway yet!) These bikes are Cadillacs: comfortable, sturdy, big cargo rack, hard to damage, and built for cruising. I love that I can bike somewhere and take the bus or train back without worrying about leaving my bike behind.
They’re not just fun. They’re also green. Bikes are the most efficient means of human (or freight!) transportation. Bike-sharing programs reduce the need for rental cars, inner-city commuting, and cab rides. It’s a great way to get in better shape. And, getting more people on bikes actually seems to lead to fewer accidents.
The uproar in New York City seems to be mostly about unfamiliarity. Our guess? Within a year, New Yorkers will be touting their CitiBike program as a major asset – for locals, for tourists, for anyone.
Have you tried a bike-share program yet? Let us know in the comments below.