Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Municipal Bike Sharing Programs...

With gas prices creeping back past $3.00 per gallon, individual travel by individual car is increasingly expensive.

If this costly gas trend continues, then it wouldn't be a surprise to see bike-sharing programs like this new one in Miami increase in number:

Starting in February, users will be able to check out a bike with the swipe of a membership or credit card at any location and return it to any other station. By the time build-out is finished this spring, the city will be dotted with closely spaced stations consisting of a rack of self-locking silver-and-blue bikes and a bright green, solar-powered kiosk. On South Beach, stations will be available within roughly a couple of blocks of any spot.

Officials with the city and DecoBike -- as the program has been dubbed -- describe it as a low-cost, emission-free transit system that will make it a cinch for residents and tourists to get around the Beach without a car.

``It's green transit,'' said DecoBike partner Colby Reese. ``You don't have to drive four blocks to lunch. It's a lifestyle.''

DecoBike will run the system and is footing the start-up cost of $4 million, Reese said. The city, which is providing sidewalk and street space for the stations, will share in the profits, which would come from memberships, rentals and some limited advertising on bike baskets.


Bike-sharing programs -- made possible by high-tech rental kiosks, specially designed bikes and fast wireless communication -- have sprouted rapidly around the world since the French city of Lyon opened the first successful modern system in 2005.

The true proving ground was car-crazy Paris, whose ad-supported Velib system, inaugurated in 2007, has proven massively popular. After overcoming initial problems with theft and vandalism, the Velib program has been embraced by Parisians; its 45,000 bikes have generated rentals in the millions.

Equally successful systems operate in Barcelona and Montreal, which has the largest in North America. Montreal's Bixi system, run by the municipal parking authority, has contracted to install bike-share programs in Boston and London. Bike-sharing programs have also spread to Latin America, with one of the largest in Mexico City, and Asia.

In the United States, only Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis have installed bike-sharing programs of a size comparable to DecoBike's, though they cover larger geographical areas. Washington's 110-station Capital Bikeshare system, for instance, extends into a portion of suburban Arlington, Va.

Chad Emerson, Faulkner

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