2013: The year of bike sharing

December 20, 2013

by Jay Walljasper

2013 will be remembered as the year when bike sharing came of age in the US.

New bike sharing systems opened in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Fort Worth, Columbus, Austin (this week), and Aspen, Colorado, this year while existing systems expanded in Minneapolis, Washington D.C. and other cities.

And 2014 is shaping up as the time when automated bike rental stations become commonplace on America’s streets, as bike sharing comes to Phoenix, Philadelphia, San Diego, Milwaukee, Tampa, Cincinnati, Seattle, Portland, and Ann Arbor.

Skeptics predicted bike sharing would flop in New York City despite proven success in comparable places like Boston and Washington. Critics quickly quieted down after the Citi Bike system was launched in late May with 4300 bikes (now almost 6000) at more than 330 stations across Manhattan and Brooklyn.

Citibikes in the snow

Five million rides were logged in the first five months with no fatalities and only two dozen injuries, most of them minor. Ninety one percent of riders are so happy with the new system they want to use their federal tax dollars to expand it, according to a survey by Transportation Alternatives. (No public money has been invested in the system yet.) More than 90 percent of users also want to see Citi Bikes expand in their neighborhoods.

Another 4000 Citi Bikes will hit the streets of Manhattan and Brooklyn next year, which will make New York one of the largest bike sharing systems in the world after Paris and eight cities in China.

Chicago, however, also claims the title of America’s #1 bike sharing city based on the number of stations—475 stations will be installed across the city by next year. The Windy City’s Divvy system opened last June with 750 bikes at 68 stations, and will expand to 4000 bikes next spring.

The Bay Area’s bike share system debuted in August with 700 bikes available in San Francisco, San Jose, Palo Alto and Mountain View.  2014 will see 1000 bikes at 100 stations.

Bay Area Bike Share launch in San Jose CA

Bikes sharing experienced a few bumps in the road this year. Los Angeles, set to open a downtown pilot program in 2013, abandoned plans due to a legal conflict about advertising on bike stations. The city is now looking to create a regional system.   Meanwhile PBSC—the firm supplying bike sharing infrastructure for many systems including New York, Toronto and Washington—is on shaky financial ground, which might delay planned expansions in some cities and postpone bike sharing’s debut in Vancouver.

But even with these problems, Atlantic Cities blogger Sarah Goodyear writes, “In cities across the United States and Canada, bike-share has quickly proven its popularity.”

This is well-worth celebrating. Bike sharing offers people a healthier, more economical, greener way of travel that reduces traffic congestion for everyone, proven by a Washington DC survey showing that Capital Bike Share members drive 4.4 million fewer miles a year and save $800 in transportation costs on average.

Capital Bikeshare Inaugural Ride

And bike sharing makes life better for all bicyclists by getting more people on bikes more often. And the more bikes on the streets, the safer and more comfortable the ride is for all of us.

Jay Walljasper writes, speaks and consults about creating healthy, lively communities.  His website: JayWalljasper.com

Here's our bike sharing infographic from earlier this year:

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