Monday, December 1, 2008

Bike Sharing Program in The US.

Remember when I lamented that bike sharing programs could never come to America? Well, I was wrong. And take a guess where it's coming...?
The mayor of Minneapolis is looking to join [European] cities' ranks and embrace [Minneapolis'] rising status as a bike-commuting town by dropping 1,000 bicycles into Downtown, Uptown and the University of Minnesota campus next spring.

Industry experts say technological advances have paved the way to make bike-sharing programs a reality. In Minneapolis, bikes would be secured in solar-powered docks, and bikes would be unlocked by a subscriber's key card.

The bikes Minneapolis would use were designed by Stationnement de Montréal, which, oddly enough, is Montreal's parking authority. The agency manages Montreal's paid on-street parking and public parking lots, and the company designed a bike-sharing program inspired by European programs already in place. Time magazine ranked Montreal's "Bixi" bike one of the 50 best inventions of 2008, and Montreal's program will also roll out next spring.

The Minneapolis bikes would have covered chains and gears internal to the hubs, so it's less easy for bikers to damage the three-speed mechanics. The broad frame is designed to be easy to clean and it has a large adjustable seat, a basket and a unisex design. Electric generation powered by movement of the front wheel would automatically light up rear lights on the bike.

Riders could take out the bikes for a half-hour at no extra charge. Annual subscriptions would cost $50–$75. The bike program is designed for quick one-way trips that are about one to three miles. Riders could check online to make sure bikes are available at the nearest dock, and when they arrive at their destinations, 1,500 more dock points than bikes should ensure there is space for bike returns. (In Barcelona, trucks redistribute bikes throughout the day to ensure adequate supplies.) Stations would be positioned about 400–500 meters apart so people theoretically wouldn't walk too far to reach their destinations.

The cost to install 1,000 bikes at 75 docks is estimated to be $3 million, and city officials have applied for a series of grants to pay startup costs. The City of Lakes Nordic Ski Foundation, the organization that runs the annual Loppet skiing event around the Minneapolis lakes, developed a nonprofit model that Minneapolis could use for its bike-sharing program.

Exact locations for bike docks aren't yet determined, but they would be movable. Consultants on the project say that will make our bike-sharing system a lot less expensive than the one in Paris, which has bike stations permanently entrenched in the ground. Minneapolis' bike stations would be removed during the winter.
I don't think I've ever been so happy to have been wrong.