Bike share options — and what to do with them
In their earliest form, bike sharing systems consisted of nothing more than a gung-ho group of concerned citizens and a small fleet of donated bikes. Cities like Portland and Madison both launched bike shares in the ‘90s that allowed the entire public to use bikes scattered around the city, free of charge. These systems ultimately floundered due to theft, but they were the spark that ignited the spread of modern bike sharing systems.
Today, major hubs such as Washington, D.C., New York, and Chicago all boast expansive bike share networks that require just a small fee for each ride. You can also pay an annual membership fee and get short rides free (usually 30 minutes or less). Just head to the bike-docking station nearest you, and swipe your credit card or membership card to unlock a bike. Some kiosks also accept payments via text message, and new systems are being put in place to allow for cash in order to make the bikes accessible to everyone. There are countless perks to using your bike share, so if you have a station near your apartment, take note.
- Because it saves you money. The fee you pay to rent a bike is really nominal compared to how much it costs to gas up, tune up, and wash up your car. A bike share membership is also probably cheaper than a public transit pass. So consider cutting back on gas and piling on the bike share hours to save some money.
- Because it’s good for Mother Earth. Recycling is noble, and taking shorter showers is an admirable goal, but one thing you can do to really decrease your carbon footprint? Leave the car parked and take a bike instead. Mother Earth will thank you.
- Because it’s good for you. Biking to work or the grocery store is basically an amped up version of taking the stairs instead of the escalator. By incorporating exercise into your everyday routine, you may find that your gym workouts get less grueling—or even unnecessary.
- Because you won’t have to worry about parking. There’s nothing more frustrating than finally fighting your way through traffic downtown, then circling the same six blocks for an hour looking for a parking spot. Since you just stow shared bikes at the first station you find, there’s always a space available.
- Because there’s no better way to transport a picnic. The only thing cuter than unpacking a picnic in the park is hopping off a bike first and then unpacking it. Pack a few sandwiches and snacks in your backpack, hop on a bike, and pedal your way to the nearest park for lunch or dinner in the fresh air.
- Because you should explore more, anyway. If your city has dedicated bike lanes or paths, you should take full advantage of them, even if you don’t have your own bike. Rent one for the day and take a long ride with your significant other to see more of your city and get some exercise at the same time.
Bike Sharing, what is it and how does it work? [Over the Bars in Wisconsin]
Pros & Cons of Bike Shares [Bicycle Touring Guide]