Imagine my surprise when I visited the main page of the Chicago Tribune this evening and saw the big lead story: City to rent thousands of bicycles. Apparently, city officials just announced plans for a large scale bike-sharing system. Oh yes yes yes!!
The system is still in the planning stages and a company has not yet been picked to implement it, but it’s expected to start in the summer of 2012, with 3,000 bikes at 300 stations around the city, most 1/4 of a mile apart in the most dense areas. By 2014, the city hopes to add 2,000 more bikes and 200 more stations. The system will pay for itself with membership fees (only $75/year with the first 30 minutes free) and sponsorships, along with federal congestion-relief funding.
I love the messaging going out to explain the system. The article starts thusly:
Transferring from a train to a bus stuck in traffic is often the most frustrating and slowest way to finish a commute, prompting Chicago officials on Wednesday to start the wheels rolling on a new “transit option.”
Discussing how the bike share system will be aimed at all citizens, even those who do not currently ride a bike, the new transportation director, Gabe Klien, says “We view it as a basic form of transportation, but also a fun way to get around.” The article also compares it to the beloved i-Go car-sharing system, which will help regular people understand how a bike-share could be useful to them.
The article’s description of the bikes made me chuckle, because it totally mirrors what’s so great about my Dutch bike.
‘The new bikes will have an upright seating position for riders, a step-through frame to make mounting and dismounting easy, wide tires and a built-in LED-lighting system,’ he said. Other features will include at least three gear speeds, cushioned seats, chain guards to keep lubricant off clothing and fenders above both wheels to prevent water on the pavement from splashing onto the riders.
I am so excited about this and what it means for the future of Chicago as a bike-friendly city. I used to be doubtful of the efficacy of bike-sharing systems, until I visited Paris last year. The Velib system is amazing and, of the huge number of bicyclists on the streets of Paris, at least half of them were riding Velib bicycles. I got the sense that the city was pushed to become more bike-friendly and install new infrastructure as a response to the huge amount of bicyclists resulting from Velib. Could that happen in Chicago? I’m going to say – YES!
Read Trisha’s account of our Velib adventures HERE. Read the whole article at the Chicago Tribune HERE. Highly recommended reading. A+ to the Chicago Tribune: the article relays the facts and avoids manufacturing any awful debates.
Do you think a bike-sharing system can change a city? Would you like to see one where you live?