One of the things that causes me confusion these days is how we Americans/Alamedans can absorb almost daily doses of really bad environmental news and do so little to alter our behaviors. Even here in liberal/relatively-environmentally-aware Alameda we seem to be resistant—sometimes even hostile—to modifying our transportation-related behavior. But, thinking outside of our regular boxes, there certainly are options. By way of example, Sunday’s New York Times had a piece about European bike-sharing programs:
In increasingly green-conscious Europe, there are said to be only two kinds of mayors: those who have a bicycle-sharing program and those who want one…In Barcelona, streets during rush hour are lined with commuters and errand-goers on the bright red bicycles of Bicing, the city’s program, which began 18 months ago. Bicing offers 6,000 bicycles from 375 stands, which are scattered every few blocks; the bikes seem to be in constant motion.
Though bike-sharing programs are taking off in Europe, in the United States there are unique challenges:
In North America, issues like insurance liability, a stronger car culture, longer commutes and a preference for wearing helmets have slowed adoption of bicycle-sharing programs. None of the European programs require helmets. Still, Washington and Montreal are experimenting with small projects, and Chicago, Boston and New York are studying options.
I was interested to learn that funding for these bike sharing programs often comes from advertising revenue:
In most European cities, advertisers have been given contracts to set up and maintain bicycle-sharing programs in exchange for the rights to sell advertisements on city-owned structures like bus stations….“We provide a turnkey program,” said Martina Schmidt, bike-sharing director of Clear Channel Outdoors, which now runs programs in 13 European cities and recently started its first American program, the one in Washington. “We give the city what they’re looking for, and they give us space to sell.”
The whole Times story is here. It looks like Minneapolis is slated to start a bike-sharing program this spring, Washington, D.C. started one last spring, and, for even more info, this blog is devoted to bike-sharing.