When we are trying to live more responsibly, consuming less, burning less greenhouse gasses – bikes keep popping up as an integral piece of the puzzle.
There was a great article in Monday’s NYTimes on biking in the Netherlands. The Netherlands is bike heaven. Doug and I loved the more sane pace that bikes bring to that country when we lived there during Doug’s postdoc.
In the Netherlands EVERYONE rides bikes from tiny tots to gray-haired grandparents, from school kids to bankers in business suits. Sure there are cars, but cars are the alternative not the default, and drivers respect bikes because the next time they could be the ones on two wheels.
Coming to the Netherlands from Madison, Doug and I found it easy to plug in. Doug biked 7 miles, ferrying across the Rhine River to work, rain or snow along with a mass of fellow bikers. Dutch bikers keep their seats a little lower, which makes it easy to put your feet on stable ground in slippery conditions. Along busier roads, there are two-way bike lanes everywhere.
The first place we lived when we returned to the States was Indiana. No way was Doug going to bike to work along the equivalent country roads in Indiana. There was no such thing as a bike lane. There wasn’t even a shoulder. But the most dangerous part was the attitude of drivers – a kind of belligerence about having to share the road with bikes, move over, or heaven forbid – slow down and wait for a safe chance to pass.
The area we moved to north of Chicago had a good set of bike trails, and we were able to use our bikes a lot more for fun and business there, but we are now back in an oasis of biking bliss. Madison Wisconsin.
I’ve blogged about the bike boulevards that Madison is incorporating. We have an amazing set of bike trails here, and now we have B-cycles, a bike sharing system where you can pay by the ride for a bike where and when you need it.
Trek Bicycle has donated a full B-cycle bike sharing system to Madison. Here’s what Trek has to say about it:
“Madison is our home and Trek is committed to making it a world-class bike city,” said Trek president John Burke. “We are very excited to be able to give this gift to the city.” The initial Trek capital investment of $1.4 million will include all of the 35 stations and 350 bikes that will be placed throughout the city while the company will contribute $700,000 per year to cover the operational costs throughout the 5 year contract.
The investment also adds two years to the original agreement, ensuring that Madison residents and visitors are guaranteed to enjoy the benefits of B-cycle for a longer period of time. “This is going to be a great program for the people of Madison, our visitors and B-cycle,” said Madison’s Mayor Paul Soglin.
B-cycle is a next-generation bicycle sharing system that replaces the need for a car for short trips in, and around, urban areas. Since debuting in Denver, CO in 2010, B-cycle has been utilized over 100,000 times, 43% of which replaced a car trip in the city’s downtown area. In addition to Denver, B-cycle is currently operational in Chicago, IL, Des Moines, IA, San Antonio, TX, and Kailua, HI and will soon appear in Broward County, FL, Boulder, CO, Omaha, NE, Spartanburg, SC, and Madison, WI.
How it works is you can walk up to any B-cycle use your charge card to check out a bike for a quick trip.
Here’s how the Wisconsin State Journal describes it:
• An annual pass for unlimited rides under 30 minutes costs $65, or $45 for students. Weekly passes with unlimited rides under 30 minutes are $30. A daily pass with unlimited rides under 30 minutes is $10. For all passes, a second 30 minutes costs $2, the third 30 minutes $5, and subsequent 30-minute intervals $5 each.
• B-cycle hours are from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. Bikes can be returned at any time and the system will log the appropriate charge. A new bike cannot, however, be checked out after 11 p.m.
• Because each bike is equipped with a GPS, B-cycle officials know where each bike is and can go out at any time to make room at full stations and bring new bikes to stations without any.
• The bikes come with software that measures the distance traveled, calories burned and the estimated carbon footprint offset by the ride.
• B-cycle bikes come equipped with a basket, lock and lights, but riders are encouraged to bring a helmet.
The system has its detractors. It is probably more expensive than owning a bike if you use it often, so we’ll see how it goes.
Any move to make it easy for people to get on a bike and move around
is a move in the right direction!
Categories: Eco activism