Biking has never been better. More and more U.S. cities are incorporating bike share programs into their transportation plans to encourage biking and to make it easier and safer to get around the city. Need another reason to get on a bike? The health and environmental benefits alone should encourage you: regular bike riding has been linked to improved mental health, stronger muscles — including your heart — and an overall longer lifespan.
Many European cities, namely Copenhagen and Paris, already have an established biking culture that blends in well with urban life. Velib, Paris’ highly successful bike share program, currently has 1,208 stations with a daily ridership of 110,000. In Copenhagen, an astounding 36% of residents commute to work daily via bike. Montreal’s Bixi is another example of a city that not only has a popular bike share program, but has exported its bike design to many other cities across the world, including London, Melbourne and Toronto. Bixi bikes can also be seen on the streets of Boston and Washington, DC.
In addition to the bike itself, Boston’s Hubway and Washington DC’s Capital Bike Share, each initiated over the past few years, continue to increase in ridership and demand. Hubway intends to expand into Cambridge and Somerville in 2012 and Capital Bike Share installed 600 additional docking stations since November 2011. NYC’s Citi Bike has recently been released to the public and San Francisco is set to roll out their bike share program in August 2012. Other U.S. cities like Minneapolis and Denver also have successful bike share programs and interestingly Denver’s program is operated as a 501(c)3, or nonprofit organization, while most other national bike share programs are corporately sponsored.
As for cost, annual bike share membership ranges from around $65 to $95 depending on location. While this may seem expensive to some, it’s still cheaper than owning a bike, which runs around $300 a year in maintenance. The most noticeable savings, however, is seen when comparing a bike to a car, the most expensive form of transportation by far. The financial drain of owning and operating a car annually? A whopping $7,000!
Given how easy so many cities are making it to get on a bike, there really is no reason not to take advantage. The combined health and environmental benefits alone make it worth your while and the financial benefit is simply icing on the cake. Sure, weather can pose a challenge at times and those hills in San Francisco will surely scare some away, but in the end, are those really reasons not to try it out? I think not.
Photo Credit: Cédric Bonhomme