Bike-sharing programs have begun to blossom in the U.S. this year. Many of these new, car-free programs are taking their cue from BIXI, a bike-sharing program in Montreal, Canada, which for years has been giving commuters a simple way to opt in to biking locally.
Highlights of BIXI include its availability to anyone for a daily, monthly or yearly fee, and as simple a checkout process as Netflix or a library. Simplicities have grown to include key-ring cards for checkout, mobile apps for borrow and return stations, and low dues to encourage biking instead of driving.
This year, Washington, D.C. launched a similar program modeled and run by the Montreal flagship. Capital Bikeshare began mid-September with 1,100 bikes in D.C. and surrounding areas, including 100 bikes in Arlington. Capital Bikeshare recently tweeted that its program is gaining popularity with 36,700 bike trips taken as of November 1.
The San Francisco Bay Area has begun to plan out a seven million dollar bike sharing pilot program set to launch in 2011. Meanwhile, the city will continue its efforts to expand bike lanes and cut down on car traffic in areas with high bicycle traffic.
Minnesota launched Nice Ride this year and saw more than 100,000 rides
on Nice Ride bikes since June 10. The program has gained over 1.5 million dollars in funding for 2011.
Portland recently saw bike usage hit seven percent, a new high for the green-conscious city. It hopes to increase bicycle usage to 25 percent of all trips taken by 2030. The city has been expanding its simple bike lanes into wider, safer, bike-only “Greenways.” Currently there is no formal bike-sharing program in Portland.
Overseas, bike-sharing programs have anchored in cities and continue to grow. On a list of top bicycle-friendly cities by Askmen.com, the only U.S. city included was Portland at #6. Other bike-successful cities include Amsterdam, Botoga, Copenhagen, Barcelona, Beijing, and of course, Montreal. Last week Europe announced that it has bike-sharing programs in over 100 cities.
For the time being, the U.S.’s northern neighbor remains the continent’s leader in bike-sharing regardless of the fact that BIXI cannot operate during the harshest winter months– December through April– because of inclement weather.
Montreal residents have supported BIXI efforts and the program continues to grow because of high rates of participation. According to the BIXI website, since the beginning of 2010 the number of rides on BIXI has passed three million.
“In my estimation, residents have become hugely reliant on BIXI,” says Montreal resident Tara Hunt, a BIXI user. “The stands are always emptying and filling and I see about half of the cyclists around town being on a BIXI.”
BIXI participants are able to check out a bicycle from a docking station with the swipe of a card. The bicycle does not have to be returned to the same docking station. The city of Montreal hopes the program will improve commute times and personal health while decreasing car pollution. A short, four-mile round trip by bicycle keeps about 15 pounds of pollutants out of the air.
As U.S. cities slowly adopt bike-sharing, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Portland may hopefully one day emulate the wide-scalesuccess of Montreal’s BIXI bike-sharing program.
Photo credit: via Flickr by Coop ECTO