By Rebecca Beitsch
The first modern U.S. bike share programs rolled out in Denver, Washington, D.C., and the Twin Cities about five years ago as a way to ease congestion, cut pollution and give residents and tourists a fun and healthy way to get around.
With their sturdy bikes and docking stations, the systems have spread quickly since then: More than 32,000 bikes are now in use in sharing programs in about 80 U.S. cities, including smaller cities such as Birmingham, Alabama, and Fargo, North Dakota.
“You are not always going to make money or even break even. These are public transportation systems that cost money.”
Another 100 cities are studying, planning or constructing their own bike share programs, including Baltimore, where a system is set to open in October.
“It’s no longer a novelty. To be a world class city, you need to have a bike share program,” said Bill Dossett, executive director of the Twin Cities’ bike share program, Nice Ride Minnesota.
Bike share advocates and analysts say successful programs balance a desire to reach into new parts of cities with the need to supply enough bikes and stations in dense downtown areas to make service convenient and reliable.
Successful programs also attract both regular riders and occasional users, who often contribute more to a program’s bottom line. Even then, most programs also depend on outside funding to keep the bikes rolling.
“You are not always going to make money or even break even,” said Tim Blumenthal, president of People For Bikes, a bicycle industry and advocacy group. “These are public transportation systems that cost money.” Continue reading