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Innovation Profile: Bike Sharing

Freedom to roam, with a bike on loan

A funny thing’s happening on the streets of America. Despite living in the age of the automobile, more and more people are turning to a somewhat primitive method for getting around town—and we’re not talking about Fred Flinstone’s foot-mobile. No longer reserved solely for health nuts and hipsters, bicycles are making a huge comeback, and the way things are going, you don’t even have to own one to get in on the fun. Bike shares have been popping up in major cities like New York, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Denver, Atlanta, Boston, Miami and more over the last few years, making it super easy to get on those bikes and ride.

Here’s how they work: Pay a fee for a specified amount of time (these range from day passes to annual subscriptions), pick up a bike at a designated docking station (or depot), ride said bike, then return it to a depot of your choice within the allotted time frame. Not only are you saving some cash by opting out of taxi rides and fossil-fueled commutes, but you’re also experiencing your surroundings in a whole new way. “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them,” wrote literary legend and bicycle enthusiast Ernest Hemingway. “Thus you remember them as they actually are.” Oh yeah, that whole living life to the fullest thing? Nailing it!

So where exactly are these bike-share companies running? Truth is, you’re probably closer to one than you might expect. More than 30 cities nationwide have some sort of bike-share program in place, with most of the bigger ones concentrated in major metropolitan areas. New York has Citi Bike; Chicago has Divvy; Washington, D.C., has Capital Bikeshare; Boston has Hubway; and Portland, Ore.—the American Mecca of bicycle culture—has Alta Bicycle Share. Luckily, this trend hasn’t been isolated to the big cities, and a number of smaller towns across the country have been getting in on the bike rental game with programs typically run by local universities or organizations. Using apps like Spotcycle is a great way to locate a bike share near you, or simply typing “bike share” into Google will more than likely bring up links relevant to your location. (Thank you, Internet bots.)

What are you waiting for? Get pedaling!

Jennifer Sanchez is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.


Photography by Thinkstock

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