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The idea of bike sharing is catching fire, with new projects being funded and implemented all over the world. Montreal launched its pilot program in 2009, and in 2010, Mexico City, Washington, Denver, Minneapolis and Chicago all started high-tech bike-sharing systems. Newer cities to join the party include Vancouver, Ottawa, Toronto, Miami, Boulder and New York City, with smaller pilot programs springing up in hundreds of North American cities.
“This is the new transportation future,” says Andrea White-Kjoss, CEO of Bikestation, a company that specialises in bicycle transit hubs. “We’re going to solve the problem of how to connect trips.”
Bikestation, while it works with bike-sharing projects, actually offers a parallel service: secure, 24/7 automatic bike-parking hubs in seven cities across the United States. These hubs are designed to serve people who want to use their own bikes, providing safe storage and amenities, like showers, change rooms, bike repairs, rentals, information and classes.
For the urban commuter trying to figure out how to connect the last leg of a commute or looking for a convenient way to make a one-way trip without having to get their bike back to where they started, bicycle sharing may be the perfect option. Simple, green and healthy, bike sharing helps busy urbanites get around in a more eco-conscious (and scenic) way.
Here are some tips for the bike-sharing newbie:
- Find out if your city has a bike-sharing program. Many cities have pilot programs, such as the University of California Irvine, which has a small university program, and Kailua, Hawaii, which has a dozen bikes at two stations. To find out, it’s as easy as searching “(your city name) bike sharing” on the internet.
- Research locations online, and plan your trip around kiosks and where you need to go. Websites and kiosks generally provide basic instructions.
- Make sure you check out and understand the cost structure for short-term trips, and be aware of any fines or penalties. Most systems include fines for keeping a bike out over a certain amount of time, and most charge for replacement of the bike after several days, to discourage bike destruction or stealing.
- Know your city biking laws, and whether or not you are required to wear a helmet.
- If you need a bike all day, bike rental might be a better choice.
- Hop on and go!
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