Bike sharing is on the verge of becoming an integral part of public transportation in cities across the globe.
This system of impromptu bike renting is helping urban areas reduce automotive traffic and pollution while providing locals and tourists with a convenient, cheap and healthy means of transport.
Currently, there are nearly
300 organized bike sharing programs worldwide. That
number is growing – and not just in the West. In India, for example, the Ministry
of Urban Development is preparing to launch a 10-city public bike
scheme as part of its
“Mission for Sustainable Habitat”.
So how does bike
sharing work? In most cities, visitors can purchase short-term subscriptions at
bike stations themselves. Just walk up to a station’s electronic kiosk, choose
the duration for which you need access to the service, and swipe your credit
card. You will receive an unlocking code which you can then use to release a
bike from the docking station. Then you can start exploring the city via bicycle.
When you reach your destination, find a nearby station and return your bike.
Make sure to lock the bike carefully by pushing the front wheel into an empty
dock. Most docks will show a green light and/or make a beeping sound when bikes
are correctly secured.
subscriptions can usually be purchased online. During the time of
your subscription (however short or long), you can rent and return a bike as
many times as you want.
Bike sharing is a fun,
easy, environmentally friendly way to explore a new place. Here are eight
cities with great 24-hour bike sharing programs that travellers should know
Although community bicycle
sharing has been around since at least the 1960s, Paris’s Vélib’ became the first high-profile program to spark global interested in organized bike sharing when it launched
to great success in 2007. The program currently has about 20,000 bikes and 1,800
bike stations (one located every 300 metres), yielding about 50 million unique
The details: Vélib’ required subscriptions are available
for 1.70 euros per day, 8 euros per week, or 29 euros per year. Once you’ve
subscribed, half-hour rides are free but each additional half-hour costs 1 euro
for up to one-and-a-half hours. After that, each additional half-hour costs 2
With more than 50,000
bikes and 2,050 bike stations, the Chinese city of Hangzhou is home to the world’s largest
bike sharing program. Bike
sharing is well integrated with other forms of public transport, with bike
stations available near bus and water taxi stops.
The details: For tourists,
a refundable deposit of 300 yuan is required to take out Hangzhou Public Bikes.
Hour-long rides are free. Each additional hour costs 1 yuan each, for up to
three hours. After that, each additional hour costs 3 yuan.
Capital Bikeshare program is the largest of its kind in the United States.
Currently, demand for bikes
The details: Capital Bikeshare memberships are available for $5 per day, $15 for
five days, $25 per month or $75 per year. Once you’ve purchased a membership, half-hour
rides are free and each additional half-hour costs $1.50 for up to one-and-a-half
hours. After that, each additional half-hour costs $6.
There are two bike
sharing programs in Bombay: FreMo, which stands for “Freedom to Move”, and the
Chalao!, which translates to “Come on, let’s cycle!”. Both are small
programs, but they are growing into a movement. Cycle Chalao! has recently
teamed up with India’s national government to launch citywide programs across
The details: Find FreMo’s various membership and pricing options at its website. For Cycle Chalao!’s
rates, visit its stations near universities in Mumbai.
Barclays Cycle Hire has only been operating for about a year, but it’s already
quite user friendly. Since launching, casual users have gone on more than one
million unique rides. Its interactive map plots out the city’s docking
real-time information on the number of bikes and parking spaces available at
The details: Barclays Cycle Hire costs 1 pound per day, 5 pounds per week or 45 pounds per year.
Half-hour rides are free. For longer rides, additional usage charges apply.
Last year, the
populous and traffic-heavy Mexico City surprised the world by launching the
EcoBici bike sharing program. Despite the city’s lack of bike lanes, EcoBici has
around 30,000 registered members – and reported accidents have fortunately been
few and far between.
The details: EcoBici riders have just one option: a year-long
subscription for 300 pesos, which grants them an unlimited number of 45-minute
rides. For longer rides, additional usage charges apply. Remember to return your bike within 24
hours, though, or you will incur a penalty of 5,000 pesos.
To introduce tourists
to a new way of exploring the city, Melbourne, Australia is offering a Bike Share Tour. If you are already accustomed to bike sharing,
opt instead for a Bicycle Tour, including a trip to Swanston Street, the
Yarra River and/or the Port Phillip Bay.
The details: Melbourne Bike Share mandatory subscriptions are available for 2.50 Australian
dollars per day, 8 Australian dollars per week, or 50 Australian dollars per
year. You can rent up to two bikes at the same time. If you need helmets,
participating 7-11 stores sell them for 5 Australian dollars each (you can then
return them to get 3 Australian dollars back each). Half-hour rides are free.
For longer rides, additional usage charges apply.
Exploring Dublin via
bicycle is an age-old pastime for travellers to Ireland. Now, the dbs, or dublinbikes
program has made this mode of
transport even more convenient for visitors. While this bike share is currently
modest in size, it is doing very well and has plans to expand rapidly.
The details: The
dublinbikes program has 44 stations and 550 bikes. Visitors can either purchase
a long-term hire card for 10 euros or a 3-day ticket for 2 euros. Only 15 bike
stations have electronic kiosks for purchasing short-term tickets, though. Find
those stations here. Half-hour rides are free. For longer rides,
additional usage charges apply.