I’ve known about bike share programs for sometime, but hadn’t really thought of them recently until I visited Menominee, a small town in Michigan’s upper peninsula. Menominee, population about 9,200, is located on the western shore of Lake Michigan; is has a nice marina and a small airport a few miles inland. I noticed bike racks full of yellow bikes and a few people riding them around town too. I learned that the city’s bike share program (they call it the Yellow Bike Program) has been in place for four years now. It was started completely by volunteers of the local Rotary Club and donated bikes in a effort to promote tourism. Today the program includes 47 bikes spread around the city at various community locations, such as the airport, marina, history museum and library.
One of the first bike share program in the US was started in Portland, OR in 1994. The program simply released bicycles into the city for unrestrictive use, but proved unsuccessful due to theft and vandalism. Other cities such as Madison, WI tried similar programs, but eventually modified to a more restrictive system requiring deposits for use of the bicycles. Washington DC instituted the first high-tech European style bike share program in the US in 2008, called SmartBike DC.
Montreal has the largest bike sharing program in North America, called Bixi. In 2009 the system had some 400 stations where bicycles can be rented with a credit card, there are over 5000 bicycles in the system. The system has had so much success that Washington DC/Arlington is also adopting the Bixi program, as well as Washington State University. This particular program offers varied pay scales from $5/day to $78/year. Pretty reasonable if you live or work in the city and have the need to use a bicycle. By the way, Menominee’s Yellow Bike program is completely free, you just need to show your drivers license and leave a phone number, the advantage of a small town.
There are many other bike share program in cities throughout the US, the Bike-sharing Blog has a lot of additional links and information if interested. Also, something to be aware of in the coming months, Nashville has plans to start its own bike share program soon.