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America’s Growing Bike Sharing Program Offers Mass Transit Alternative

For those who would like an alternative to mass transit and a reduction of the costs associated with commuting to work, there is a new program aimed at commuters and companies that is beginning to roll into various communities across America. 

Bike Sharing is designed to offer commuters quick, cost effective, short-term transportation in highly congested urban areas. It also has health and wellness benefits for commuters, reduces the need for cities to provide parking, and is eco-friendly. Commuters borrow a bike at an official bike sharing station in one location, and drop it off at another near their destination.

As with many new trends that make their way across the nation, it’s especially popular in California right now. California has been socked with likely the highest gas prices in the nation, and communities such as Oakland, L.A. and San Francisco are some of the most congested. So residents of these areas are really warming to the Bike Sharing program.

Another city that is on board with the Bike Sharing program is Chicago. Their program began with 750 bikes and includes plans to expand to 4000, with 400 stations across the city. 

The growing Bike Sharing program in the US was introduced through the US Department of Transportation. However, Toole Design Group was responsible for doing the research regarding implementation. 

The primarily government funded program offers some opportunities for companies to participate, giving them a new opportunity to reduce commuter congestion in urban areas, contribute to a cleaner environment and help employees become healthier through the benefit of the exercise. Humana insurance company, headquartered in Louisville, Kentucky is one such company.

Humana began to introduce the program at the 2008 political conventions. They provided 1000 bikes to then host cities Denver and Minneapolis-St. Paul, making the bikes available for anyone to use who wanted to do so.

Another company sponsored program is offered in New York. It started using a bike sharing system in May of 2013. The citizens of New York were told that the program would be a free program sponsored by Citigroup. It provided 10,000 bikes and 600 stations, and Citigroup picked up the $41 million tab to get the program going.

The program went through a time of difficulty due to the program’s software that ran the solar powered docking stations. A company out of Canada named Bixi designed the bikes and software for the docking stations. So when things didn’t work as planned, New York and other cities tied to Bixi withheld its payments.

This contributed to Bixi filing for bankruptcy, but after a bailout from Montreal, Bixi made the necessary corrections and has claimed that the system is now working properly.

Since it is really still in the beginning stages, there are other problems hindering more cities from getting on board at this time. For example, most cities need to develop the infrastructure that will allow for a successful bike sharing program.

Some people who presently use it where it is available have indicated that there aren’t enough bike trails or docking stations, or that the docking stations are not located in the right places to encourage people to use the program. However, many cities are working to address these issues so that they can either begin a Bike Sharing program or expand the one that they have.

The growing popularity of the program, especially among millennials, is making city planners and transportation officials more mindful of the need to consider bike lanes and docking stations as the demand for Bike Sharing increases in communities across the nation.

Have you used or do you currently use a bike sharing program? What kind of experiences have you had? Your comments below please…

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