share a bike

Not that I’d share any of mine.  My bikes are personal.  Each one is sized to my measurements, adjustments fixed in place.  They all ride the road, but each for a different purpose.  I understand their unique quirks and it seems like they understand mine.

But now I’m getting ready to share.  NYC is about to install a rather large bike share program.  It’s been years in the planning.  The 1st phase is 6,000 bikes in Lower Manhattan and Eastern Brooklyn.  Phase two plans are to expand Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

bike share racks at Madison Square Park ready to start working

bike share racks at Madison Square Park ready to start working

Chicago is about to install a similar program at about the same time.  San Francisco two months later.  Washington DC has had a bike share program for three years.  Portland for several more.  Boston, since 2011.  They’ve popped up and have been popping up all over the U.S., from Tucson, AZ to Madison, WI.  In Europe, these shared programs are said to have originated in the Netherlands, and are now in hundreds of cities across France, Spain, Germany, and Italy.  They’ve recently been emerging in China.  (None compare (in size) to Hangzhou, China, where there are about 65,000 bikes in the system with more than 2,500 bike stations.)

Last week I was in Miami Beach for two days (business).  To my pleasant surprise, there was a well-functioning bike share program.  By providing my transportation from hotel to the meeting events, it was more convenient than walking and a whole lot more fun than driving.

Dozens of stations similar to this around Miami Beach

Dozens of stations similar to this around Miami Beach

When I asked my friend in Chicago what he thought about the soon-to-be Chicago bike-share program, he said he hadn’t heard much about it but that he imagined the bikes would be placed in the tourist areas.  His comment surprised me.  I then realized it’s a common mis-conception because city bike share programs, although excellent for tourists, are primarily for residents.  They are priced for short trips, under 30-45 minutes.  The intention is to eliminate the need for a metro ride, taxi, or hopping into a vehicle of any motorized type.

trying to change the culture - yes, cyclist can use full lane.

trying to change the culture – yes, cyclist can use full lane (when there are double lanes).

A couple of weeks ago I took a trip to Pennsylvania and carried a folding bike on the train.  I wanted to peddle to my destinations without relying on rides or taxis.  Besides being practical, the physical motion of peddling feels good.  To the town I went, I was met mostly with looks like I was from another planet.  No one rides bikes there.  It’s not a bike friendly area.  We’ve become accustomed to making even short trips in the car.  Why bike when we can drive.  That statement would be better reversed.  Why drive when we can bike.

The point of all these programs is to try to reduce, by a sliver, a portion of traffic congestion.  At the same time, we convert our seated position into one which is working for us.  And the work isn’t so hard.  Bicycling is the most efficient form of transportation–three times more than walking.  But biking as a form of errand-running or commuting is off most people’s radar.  These programs are a start to put the practical function of biking back inside our consciousness.

Biking to work or for errands is a part of the culture for most people in China and India, the two most populated countries.  The streets of Japan and other Asian countries are filled with bicycles.  In our culture bikes are mostly “a nuisance” to our car’s right to the road.  If the bike share programs nudge this culture just slightly toward being peddle-friendly, we’d all be a lot better off.

The benefits of cycling are too many to expound upon in this post.  Just know that if you set a good example and peddle your next short trip, you’d be doing yourself, your city, the environment, and our society a favor.  Get out there and share a bike.

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