Encouraging Cycling: Biking & Bike Sharing

As I've mentioned in a number of blog posts, I enjoy bike riding.  I think it is a fun, relaxing, and mindful activity to enhance any day.  You might be thinking to yourself, "I haven't ridden a bike since middle school," but it's not just for kids.  You can ride for something to do, as exercise, or as transportation. 

Image taken at the Tides Inn, Irvington, VA
May 2014

Danny and I live in the suburbs of Richmond, so sometimes we cruise around our neighborhood, ride to friends' houses, and occasionally I venture up to the grocery store or Target. 

Beyond just being fun and physical, bikes constitute a low-carbon mode of transport.  In an effort to be more sustainable, many cities and universities around the country have begun to institute bike share programs.  The city initiatives provide bicycles to participants, for a price according to their chosen time frames; most of these places have day, week, year passes, for varying prices, while the universities generally provide them for free or at a very low cost.

The nation's largest bike share program is in our nation's largest city; NYC's "Citi Bikes" program, in addition to the actual bikes, offers citi bike member meet-ups, free street biking safety classes (in conjunction with Bike New York), and bike demonstrations.  Membership prices are reasonable, at $10 for 24 hours, $25 for a week, and $95 for the year.  The cost, after the membership, also consists of usage fees after the first 45 minutes (these are free).  Overall, the program appears to have been overwhelmingly successful so far.  Critics of the program anticipated a large number of fatalities, but as this Slate article discusses, as of May, there have been zero.

Washington, DC has its own bike share program called Capital Bike Share.  Their pricing is $7 for 24 hours, $15 for 3 days,  $25 for a month, and $75 for the year (or $84 for the year, if you pay in 12 installments).  Like the Citi Bike program, usage fees apply after the first 30 minutes.  When I spent a few weeks in DC this summer, a number of people I spoke with recommended the program and I saw many people utilizing the bikes throughout the city.

Richmond is not a huge city, but we are home to a few colleges and universities.  One such institution is Virginia Commonwealth University, known here as VCU.  Their bike share program is called "VCU RamBikes," as they are the VCU Rams, and is part of the VCU Goes Green initiative.  The focus appears to be to make the entire community more open to bike traffic and usage.  According to the VCU Goes Green webpage, VCU has "237 bicycle racks with a total capacity of 1,880 spaces."  In the RamBikes program, there are 12 bikes available for rent and designated bike racks for these bikes.  This program allows students to sign bikes out at the library, just like a book, for 24 hour use.  Along with the bike, the program issues students helmets and u-locks for use and return at the conclusion of the rental period.

Image taken on the University of Richmond campus
June 2014

Even relatively small universities, like the University of Richmond, have instituted their own bike share programs.  This one, called the "Green Bike Program," originally provided the student population of about 4,100 and about 800 faculty and staff members with access to 35 beach cruisers and 3 mountain bikes to use around campus and the surrounding area.  The beach cruisers (which are green) are free to borrow and the mountain bikes rent for $5 a day.  In 2010, 14 additional beach cruises were added (these are yellow).  Begun in 2009, the website says, "The bike share provides an alternative green form of transportation to lessen on-campus traffic and to minimize our carbon footprint."  In my limited experience on and around the U of R campus, the program appears to have been successful thus far.  According to this article at Virginia Bicycle Federation, the university has hired several student bike mechanics and they are hopeful for the spread of bike fever.

Image taken on the University of Mary Washington campus
November 2013

Other cities around the country and world are making safe biking a priority, too.  In certain European cities, for example, where biking is part of the culture and infrastructure, biking constitutes upwards of 30%, sometimes 40%, of daily commutes, according to this article.  (In a future post, I would like to examine biking practices outside of Western culture.  Stay tuned!)

If all of this seems wonderful on paper, but you still can't get past how ugly and clunky a helmet is, there is something for that, too!  These entrepreneurs invented an invisible bike helmet!  Check out the video below.

Video Source: YouTube
If you are able, test ride a bike and get one for yourself.  You can use it for leisure, exercise, or your commute.  You can save money, get fit, and reduce your carbon footprint.  The more people bike, the safer and easier it will become for all of us.
Image taken at The Tides Inn on our low-key honeymoon
May 2014
Where do you love to ride?

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