Bike sharing systems work. For the average commuter and tourist in Paris, the Vélib’ bike sharing program offers a convenient and alternative way to travel within the city. Riders can choose a one-day, seven-day or year-long pass, and the first half hour of every ride is free. The infrastructure of more than 1,200 stations and 18,000 bicycles makes the system successful.
Granted, the Vélib’ system is not problem free. Many of the available bikes have crooked handlebars, flat tires, or seats that do not adjust correctly. Despite the at times cumbersome nature of these heavy cruisers, they offer a different kind of freedom to tour the city. Bicyclists in Paris can compete with the traffic around the Place de la Concorde, and then breezily ride through the Tuileries Gardens. When riders borrow a bicycle, they’re certain to find a station to return it to at their destination. And, if they’re not able to find a station, a lock is conveniently located on the bike. However, in Paris the stations do not reach to banlieues (suburbs) on the outskirts of the city, which excludes large numbers of commuters.
Citi Bike, the bike sharing system in New York City, that begins this summer has the potential to be one of the most successful programs, because of its sheer size and flexibility. Its ability to alter the landscape of the city is exciting. Surprisingly, New York City is already a fairly bikeable city. The bike paths along the West Side Highway allow commuters to cruise uptown and downtown with ease, and the push to make roads bicyclist-friendly is obvious. The Department of Transportation connected with neighborhoods to suggest locations of the stations, and Citi Bike plans to open the system with at least 600 stations and 10,000 bicycles. In the past year DOT also provided workshops and demonstrations to educate future riders about the bicycle system. Citi Bike promises to expand the system and refine locations to meet the needs of different neighborhoods.
*Update! The City of Portland plans to start a bike share program in the spring of 2013. We can’t wait to try it out. Interested in suggesting locations in Portland? Share your feedback on the PDX Bike Share Map.
What are your experiences with a bike sharing program? Have you found it easy or difficult to use? Would you be comfortable trying a bike sharing system in a city like Paris or New York? Are you looking forward to the bike sharing program in Portland?