America has long lagged behind other developed countries when it comes to commuter biking. Indeed, in a recent ranking of the world's 20 most bike-friendly cities, not one American city made the list.
But in just one week, the U.S. has taken two large strides to narrow that gap. On Monday, New York City inaugurated the country's largest bike-sharing program, introducing 6,000 bikes onto the city's crowded streets. By the end of the program's second day, the program's members had ridden a collective 32,265 miles since the initiative's launch.
A mere two days later, another major U.S. city joined in on the bike-sharing craze. On Wednesday, Chicago kicked off the membership drive for Divvy Bikes, a sharing system that will provide 4,000 bikes and is set to launch later this summer.
New York and Chicago are only the most recent - and largest - American cities to create bike-share programs. They join cities including Washington, D.C., Arlington, VA, Boston, MA, and Chattanooga, TN. With some earlier community bike-sharing programs, free bikes often resulted in stolen bikes. But many newer programs are based on Paris' bike-sharing system (started in 2007), whose convenience, efficiency, and reasonable prices created a system - and a business model - that has proven successful in a growing list of more than 300 cities and towns around the world.
In New York, corporate sponsor Citibank paid $41 million to give the Citi Bikes program its name. The program charges $95 for annual memberships, $10 for 24-hour passes, and $25 for 7-day access. Though some have criticized the price tag for annual usage, the program drew 772 new annual members in its first day and 2,926 in its second.
Good business indeed.
Photo: Citi Bike NYC