Exciting news for livable cities advocates — it looks like bike sharing will finally be coming to America in 2008. According to sources, Washington D.C. is likely to be the first U.S. city to implement such a program, at least the modern version similar to many European cities.
The program, similar to Paris, Barcelona, Stockholm, and other European cities, will likely be funded through an agreement with a major advertiser (such as Clear Channel), which will pay for the system in return for exclusive advertising rights on bus shelters and other outdoor furniture.

Unlike Paris, however, Washington will initially roll out a “lite” version of bike sharing, offering about 120 bicycles at 10 locations around the city. Details such as costs for usage and membership have not yet been announced. If all goes according to plan, the first phase of the D.C. program could start in March or April of 2008.

As for the bikes themselves, they will be locked into docking stations that will be opened with special cards for members. Washington plans on using a “sturdy” bike, which can be adapted to people of various heights. The bikes will also have some special features including a small front wheel that makes it “more maneuverable, but also quirky enough to discourage theft.” For nighttime safety, all bikes will be equipped with automatic lighting.

Chicago is also in the process of implementing bike sharing. The Windy City is studying two proposals, one from France-based advertising giant JC Decaux — which operates the Paris system — and one from London-based OYBike. The city’s mayor, Richard Daley, has expressed strong interest in a bicycle program, having viewed the Paris system.

“Mayor Daley’s vision is to make Chicago the most bicycle-friendly city in the United States,” said Ben Gomberg, bicycle program coordinator for the city.

“In Chicago, almost 60 percent of all trips by city residents are three miles (nearly five kilometers) or less, which are distances very suited for bicycling. That’s why we’re interested.”

Additionally, Gomberg said Chicago is flat and relatively compact compared to many US cities, making cycling easier. He said city officials see many advantages to the program including improving physical fitness and reducing pollution.

Besides Washington and Chicago, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon are also in the process of launching their own bike sharing systems. Given the direction New York is going in, I expect to see it added to this list in the near future. While all of this pleases me tremendously, I’ll be ready to party the day Miami (or Miami Beach and Coral Gables) takes the bike sharing plunge. I’ve said it so many times: Miami is blessed with natural cycling conditions most cities could only dream of.

The timing is right. With gasoline costing over $3/gallon, global warming concerns reaching the forefront, increasingly unbearable traffic congestion, and a national obesity crisis, there couldn’t be a better time for Miami (or any major city) to devise a bike sharing program. Moreover, given the global popularity and proven success of these programs, the formula for implementation is well established.

Come on Miami, it’s time to act.

Photo: Courtesy www.flickr.com

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2 Responses to Bike Sharing: Coming to a City Near You in 2008 (Unless You’re in Miami)

  1. Anonymous says:

    Ryan, When do you see Miami getting it’s act together enough to get one of these?

  2. Ryan Sharp says:

    Unfortunately, probably not for a while, anon. As we know, Miami is rarely on the cutting edge when it comes to planning, so these other programs would have to prove successful and popular before anything is even considered here.

    Also, Miami would need to develop and implement a Bicycle Master Plan first. This is necessary to upgrade and legitimize current bicycle infrastructure.

    I see the most potential in Miami Beach, given the density, connections, lack of transit, and recent momentum with cycling.

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