|The bike-sharing scheme is a hit in Paris Portland seeks to follow suit|
About a month ago I wrote about the City of Portland, Oregon, and its attempts to implement a comprehensive bike sharing program on the model of many European cities. The most recent addition to the bike sharing world is Paris, which wheeled out the world's largest bike sharing program on July 15, featuring 10,000 shiny new bicycles.
An August 9 article in the London Times outlined the success of the program:
The giant fleet of Vélibs (short for free or freedom-bikes in French) is already showing signs of transforming a city which, despite increasing cycle lanes, had never been pedal-friendly. The real test will come with the end of summer and the return of bad weather and grumpy Parisians from holiday.
Parisians . . . appear to be enjoying their new found pedal power. In the first three weeks of the world's biggest bike rental scheme, the 22kg (48lb) machines were borrowed 1.2 million times. Each is being used six times a day on average, usually for the short trips that are encouraged by the pricing scheme. - Times Online
In an update from my previous post, Portland has announced the official implementation of its bike sharing program. The success of Paris' program and the efforts of various other cities to wrangle low-cost rental bikes is lighting a pedal-powered fire among cycling enthusiasts, mass transit riders, and even those just looking for a cheap way to run easy errands and get a little exercise.
Redevelopment of Portland's downtown transit mall is currently underway, and bike sharing is a high transportation priority for many Portlanders. Personally, I am ecstatic to see my hometown jumping on the bike sharing bandwagon. Portland's unique culture and strong green ethos make it an excellent candidate for such a program, in addition to City Commissioner Sam Adams' efforts to make it the first American city to receive the League of American Cyclists' Platinum rating.
Portland is aiming to initially roll out 500 bikes, with room to grow if the system catches on. The city has dubbed the coming two-wheelers Red Bikes, a name that conjures memories of the Yellow Bikes community bike sharing program that failed in the 1990s as a result of theft and vandalism.
Modern bike sharing systems have solved this problem through the use of personal cards that track riders and their bikes, charging them for overdue or damaged rentals. The bicycles used in many cities are made virtually vandal-proof, with slash-resistant tires and unique parts that require unique tools to remove or alter.
Look forward to seeing these programs in Portland and other American cities, and be sure to give rental bikes a try next time you see them in Europe!