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Bike-Sharing Programs Hit Streets in Over 500 Cities

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WASHINGTON DC, USA – Today more than 500 cities in 49 countries host advanced bike-sharing programs, with a combined fleet of over 500,000 bicycles.

Bike-Sharing Programs Hit Streets in Over 500 Cities
Bike-sharing cities are finding that promoting the bicycle as a transport option can lead to more mobility and safer streets for all. - Photo Paul Blezard

Urban transport advisor Peter Midgley notes that: “Bike sharing has experienced the fastest growth of any mode of transport in the history of the planet.”

Amsterdam and Copenhagen

It certainly has come a long way since 1965, when 50 bicycles were painted white and scattered around Amsterdam for anyone to pick up and use free of charge. Copenhagen’s famed Bycyklen (“City Bike”) program, which has been an inspiration to many cities, finally closed at the end of 2012 after operating

for 17 years with more than 1,000 bicycles. It is set to be replaced by a modern system in 2013.

Third generation

France ushered the world into the third generation of bike sharing in 1998, when advertising company Clear Channel began the world’s first public computerized program with 200 bikes in the city of Rennes. The Lyon Vélo’v program with 1,500 bikes at some 100 automated self-service docking stations paved the way for large-scale bike sharing’s early shining star: the Vélib’ in Paris. Vélib’ was launched in 2007 with 10,000 bicycles at 750 stations, and it quickly doubled in size. By the end of 2012, Vélib could claim more than 224,000 annual members and had surpassed 130 million trips.

Italy, Spain, London, Eastern Europe

According to figures maintained by Peter Midgley, Italy had 47 bike-sharing programs in 2007, Spain had 36, and France had 18. London’s Barclays Cycle Hire system launched in 2010 with 6,000 bikes and has grown beyond 8,000. As part of Mayor Boris Johnson’s “cycling revolution.” Eastern Europe, which appears to be on the brink of a bike-sharing bonanza, Warsaw opened a program in August 2012 with 1,000 bikes that were ridden 130,000 times in that first month. The city now has some 2,500 shared bikes.

China shows how big bike sharing can get

On all other continents, except for Africa, bike-sharing enthusiasm has spread including to Eastern Asia, Australia, and the Americas as well. But it is the “bicycle kingdom” of China that is showing the world how big bike sharing can get. In early 2013, China was home to 79 bike-sharing programs, with a whopping combined fleet of some 358,000 bicycles. According to a paper prepared in late 2012 for the Transportation Research Board’s 92nd Annual Meeting, expansions and new projects could soon balloon China’s public bike fleet to  just under 1 million bicycles.

Hooking people up to bus or metro

Bike-sharing cities are finding that promoting the bicycle as a transport option can lead to more mobility and safer streets for all. Bike-sharing programs are well positioned to hook people up with a bus or metro system, accommodating the last mile or so between home or work and mass transit. Having bikes ready to go on the streets encourages more people to try out biking, and once they experience its convenience, speed, and lower cost, they then advocate for further improvements to cycling infrastructure—like bike lanes, paths, and parking—making it even easier for more riders to join in.


Source: Earth Policy Institute

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