Cyclists will rejoice: Research through The Earth Policy Institute recently revealed that the collective prevalence of bike-sharing programs in countries has increased by over 300% since 2000. In a recent interview with Treehugger, Urban Transport Advisor Peter Midgley stated, ““bike sharing has experienced the fastest growth of any mode of transport in the history of the planet.” Throughout the United States, programs have exploded in major cities – but now, they are also gaining prominence in smaller communities. Studies show that 500 cities across the globe have implemented bike-sharing programs, making green transport a viable option for people of all socioeconomic backgrounds.
The concept of bike-sharing is quite straightforward. Typically, a pool of a dozen cycles are parked in a designated area, adjacent to a credit card kiosk. After taking the bike out, it is returned to one of the bike-sharing stations that are located throughout the city. Most require that cyclists register as a member first. From here, you can pay per ride or through an annual fee (which is anywhere from $50-$85 a year).
Bike sharing stations are positioned to align with public transportation, so that people can hop off the bus or subway and bike the remaining distance to work or home. By making the system accessible – and affordable – it ensures that people will consider bike sharing to be as viable as any other means of getting from here to there. As gasoline prices continue to spike, it also offers a tempting option for those looking to save a little money.
Many people think that the benefits of cities dominated by bike transport is not solely environmental. The Christian Science Monitor made the case that getting from here to there by bicycle can shape the fabric of a community. They demand a slower pace and stronger interpersonal relationships. Bike sharing adds yet another element, creating a sense of camaraderie amongst all of the area’s citizens. In essence, cycling cities might just be happier cities.
Bike sharing is a universal phenomenon – the trend has spread everywhere, from Europe to Asia, from South America to the Middle East. But to call it a “trend” feels trite, like it is designated a passing fancy. In reality, bike sharing feels like it has the power to stick. We live in an era where environmental responsibility isn’t a choice; if we want to continue living on our planet, it’s a necessity. Bike sharing isn’t just healthy for the planet. It’s an inexpensive way for people to get around – and what’s more, it provides an ideal way to carve time out for a little exercise in a busy day. With overwhelming benefits and concrete proof of its ever-increasing popularity, it seems clear that bike-sharing might just be a dominating factor (and a welcome one, at that) of our future communities.