Global warming is one of the biggest issues we face as a world. With the Trump administration coming in, a president that claims that global warming was hoax created by China, the future of reducing CO2 emissions looks bleak.
Americans us cars for basic transportation more than nearly any other developed country. Thanks to a history of car industry lobbyists and oil tycoons, our over reliance on cars makes them one of the worst causers of CO2 emissions in the world.
According to a study by the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy there is a way to reduce urban emissions by up to 11 percent: increase bicycle riding. For every mile someone rides their bike instead of driving is one less pound of carbon in our atmosphere.
However, bringing your own bike everywhere isn’t always convenient. Many buses are not fitted for bikes, finding adequate bike parking can be difficult, and those visiting a city can’t bring their bike with them.
Bike shares are stations located on corners across a city that lets a rider rent a bike and drop off at other set stations, all without the hassle of watching your own bike. Modern bike shares work by using “docking stations” where users can check out a bike using their credit card or a smart card before riding it to another docking station. It makes biking more convenient, accessible, and affordable.
From bustling New York City to quaint College Park, Maryland (pop. 30,000), cities of all sizes have seen the benefits of bike sharing. The explosion in popularity has allowed low cost vendors to enter the market, making it easier than ever for cities to bring. There are now more than 850 bike share programs around the world, lowering CO2 emissions and making healthier cities in each community.
Bike share is put in place to achieve a variety of goals. It improves health, as one study found an additional 74 million minutes of physical activity as a result of bikeshare in london. Research has also found that, despite not using helmets, bikeshare users are actually significantly less risky to be injured than traditional bikers. Vox has a great explainer video on why this could be.
The environmental benefits are also large and very thorough. By increasing our inner city bicycle transportation travel to 14 percent, an amount easily surpassed by countries like Japan, the Netherlands, and Denmark, we can decrease urban CO2 emissions by 11 percent.
Video: China turns to bike share to help decrease pollution
Bike share is impractical, it costs too much for too little usage. Many bike share programs continue to lose money every year, with very few riders. While it may work for large cities like New York, it makes no sense in our city.
Bike share is a cost effective and safe way to reduce traffic congestion, increase healthy lifestyles, and improve tourism. Research on Washington D.C.’s bike share program found that 23% of users spent more money at local businesses because they use bike share. While it may have costs, they are tiny compared to the cost of rebuilding roads and bridges. It can even be set up to be free to the city, by partnering with a corporate sponsor to help pay for the infrastructure.
How To Pass It
Get a few passionate friends to begin talking to your city officials. Elected officials love things like bike share programs. They can be built quickly, there’s a great photo-op during the ribbon cutting ceremony, and it stands as a physical reminder to voters what they’ve done for them for the next election. With a little community support you can usually convince the city to start moving forward on plans.
You must begin by installing at least 2 in the most high density areas of your city. Since the bikes require a drop off at a separate station, the more stations that can be built the more likely they will be used. It’s a good idea to build the first ones in a highly used, middle income area so you can show good returns on the investment before you go and begin bringing it to less dense and poorer areas.
What You Can Do
Look to see if your city already has a bike share program. If it doesn’t, begin reaching out to groups that may be supportive of bringing this to the area. Local bicycle clubs and environmental organizations are natural partners for this. Interests that are generally against progressive ideals, such as business groups, developers, and realtors tend to also be supportive as it increases property values for surrounding real estate.
If you have a bike share program, lobby to increase its reach into other urban areas. Recent studies have shown that bike share programs are being left out of poor neighborhoods, which would have the most to gain from the affordable alternative form of transportation they provide.