The bicycle revolution in 1965 spearheaded by the radical group Provo welcomed the concept, however raw and unpolished, of bikeshare to the world. The bikesharing scheme had to be postponed until 1995 when Bycyklen of Copenhagen docked bikes around the city for the public to use. Back then, access to the bikes was coin-operated, as opposed to today’s electronic and app-controlled docks.
More cities are joining the bikesharing movement in an effort to increase bike usage and, consequently, reduce gas discharge from cars and trucks. And, aside from the physical fitness and environmental advantages bikeshare advocates, convenience is also a top priority. Adding bikesharing stations to different strategic points in an urban space gives commuters an effective addition to short-distance transit.
With bikeshare, you can pick up a bike at any station and pay for it using card or cash. The stations are made of docks that hold and control access to the bikes; these docks generally have user-friendly interfaces that make them accessible to everyone. After your ride, you can load the bike onto a dock in the nearest station.
The bikesharing philosophy
With the current boom of bikesharing in various cities around the country, it is difficult to deprive yourself of the experience. We’re sure you ask yourself this all the time: is bikesharing for me?
The bikeshare practice was founded on the belief that green alternatives to any commodity – food, fashion, transportation – should be available to the masses. When Provo painted a small number of bikes white and left them in various spots around the city, it was a provocation to the perpetrators of air pollution and consumerism. They were calling on a radical change in society. The color white was a symbol meant to contradict the obscene extravagance of the authoritarian car.
Bikesharing is more than a green and convenient mode of commute. It was, and maybe still is a political statement. People who partake in bikesharing are people who believe in the power of collective action. They believe in delaying the onset of global warming, that the public deserves better and more accessible public transportation, and even in the importance of physical fitness.
When Doug Kendall, a Washington native, saw the first bikesharing station installed back in 2010, he never thought he would use it as regularly as he does today. In a recent exchange with him, he writes:
I have my own bike, which I keep in the garage. I’ve used it to travel around the neighborhood for years, so imagine being a loyalist to your own gear and finding out they installed a bikeshare station downtown. At first, I had a hard time appreciating the idea.
Then, one time, I had to leave a dinner party earlier than the people I came with. I didn’t bring my own car, so I had to find another way to get home. There was a bikeshare station one block ahead, so I figured, “Hey, where’s the harm in trying, right?”
It was a great experience! Everything was so convenient – all I had to do was swipe my card, and the next thing I knew, I was already home. It was also a big plus to have a station near my place.
Doug recounts that his favorite thing about bikeshare is the fact that he can find it all over the country, so his travels are always breezy.
When I was visiting my cousins in Minnesota, I spent one day in a hotel before moving in with them. I wanted to check out the famous food stops before indulging myself in traditional family dishes. Good thing they have many bikeshare stations, because I could burn whatever I ate in a previous restaurant as I pedaled my way to another!
Still, he stresses that the most important improvement since bikeshare was introduced to the country is that people are more accustomed to just riding bikes and the attitude toward fuel consumption has changed, maybe not drastically, but it is still a considerable development.
A more compelling look at bikeshare
Now, we know that bikeshare is good for the environment, pockets, and health… but what other benefits can it provide the city and the individual?
Many tourists feel overwhelmed while learning the metro stations and bus stops. Most of the time they just opt to walk. With bikesharing, touring a new city is ten times the fun and a hundred times less stressful! Even better is that many bikeshare stations are located in spots that the city government wants to promote.
Discovering the corners of the city
You may have grown up in Chicago, but do you know all the nooks and crannies? An afternoon stroll can turn into quite the adventure.
Helping the sport of cycling become mainstream
More people have expressed interest in cycling as a sport after bikesharing was introduced. The many benefits of cycling on physical, mental, and psychological health are being recognized more each day. With this, measures have been put up to ensure the safety and welfare of people on bikes, such as dedicated bike lanes on main roads.
The idea of bikesharing taking over the primary modes of city commute is making a solid case. With more people realizing the importance of such an alternative, do you think you could be one of them?