Guest post by Duncan Hurd, managing editor of Momentum Mag
We hadn’t planned on biking that morning in Montreal, QC. As my partner and I were walking to meet friends we couldn’t help but notice BIXI bike share stations along the way. At the first station, we used the poster-sized map to make sure we were walking in the right direction. At the second station, we paused to read the instructions and take a closer look at the 3-speed, boomerang-shaped bicycles. Once we reached a third station we decided to swipe a credit card, release two bicycles and pedal away.
There are currently more than 300 bicycle share systems in operation around the world. New York City plans to launch North America’s largest system—with 7,000 bikes spread across 400+ stations—in March 2013. Los Angeles is also developing bike shares.
Each city’s bike share system may vary by pricing and membership rules, but most are intended for users to make short trips between stations. Swipe a credit card or membership key and bike share systems provide quick and convenient transportation for trips that may otherwise require a longer walk, transit or taxicab.
Ever used a bike share system before? Unsure if the one in your city is right for you? Here are four tips to get the most out of bike shares:
1. Commute Partly or Fully by Bike Share
Bike share systems are often intended for commuters and you’ll find stations conveniently located at or near transit hubs. This means you can use bike share to get to public transit as well as get from a transit station to within a short walk of your destination. Often, cities offer bike share memberships at discounted rates to transit pass holders. By making all or part of your commute by bike share you can get to your destination faster and save money.
2. Explore a New City by Bike Share
There’s no better way to get to know a city than by bicycle. Many bike share systems offer short-term memberships of 24-72 hours that are perfect for tourists. You can use the maps provided by most systems to plan your route from station to station and dock your bike when you’ve found a place you’d like to explore on foot. Note: Keeping a bike out of a dock for longer than 30 minutes may mean increased user fees, so plan for short trips between stations and not a meandering route around the city in one go.
3. Do One-Way Trips Quickly
Does the forecast call for rain later in the day? Are you heading out to an event where you intend to drink? Since bike share systems allow you to return a bicycle to any station, you can get to your destination by bike and then choose to take transit or a taxi home. I’ll often use bike share for one-way errands including riding to the shop where my day-to-day bicycle is being repaired.
4. Work Out by Bike Share
While I’ve read of competitors bringing bike share bicycles to triathlons and cyclo-cross events, these rides aren’t intended for intense physical work-outs. However, by making more of your trips by bike—even short ones—you can start to see some improvements to your health over time. Bike share can also help you mix up your regular work-out routine. Take bike share to a gym location further away or dock your bike in a different neighborhood and jog home. Most bike shares also have baskets allowing you to carry your gym clothes.
New: Bike Shares Now on Walk Score
As of December 18, 2012, Walk Score mapped nearly 1,600 locations of bike shares across North America. Search for any address in these cities and find bike share locations listed as one of the main categories: Boston, Denver, Minneapolis, New York, Houston, Washington, D.C., Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Broward, Charlotte, Des Moines, Kailua, Kansas City, Madison, Nashville, Omaha, San Antonio and Spartanburg.
Duncan Hurd is managing editor of Momentum Mag, an independent media company that promotes, encourages and inspires “Smart Living by Bike.” He lives in Toronto, Canada and believes that every ride is a group ride, even if those around him don’t know it yet. Subscribe to Momentum Mag’s free newsletter.
Photo: Kathleen Wilker