New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced on New Year’s Eve that his city’s bicycle sharing network, known as Citi Bike, was used by riders 10 million times in 2015. There are currently 7,500 bicycles in the system, which added 2,400 bikes and 138 new docking stations throughout the city during the past year. It plans to have 12,000 bikes and more than 700 docking stations by the end of 2017. Usage in 2015 was up 24% from 2014, when a little more than 8 million trips were made.
The mayor claims Citi Bike had more riders last year than any other bike sharing program in the United States. It now ranks “on par with the largest bike share systems in the Western hemisphere,” he says. “There have been nearly 9 million trips taken on Mexico City’s similarly sized EcoBici bike share in 2015,” the mayor’s office said in a statement, “and London’s larger Santander Cycle Hire was on pace for 9,943,074 trips in 2015.” Citi Bike ridership exceeded 50,000 trips on 7 days during 2015.
According to Take Part, a bicycle advocacy group, New York City officials have praised the Citi Bike system for the way it has helped curb car traffic and increase physical activity among residents since it began in 2013. A study in Washington. DC in 2015 found that bike share programs are capable of reducing traffic congestion by 2-3%. Cities across North America are promoting bike sharing as a way to keep some vehicles from driving into the city.
Bike sharing does have one issue that needs to be solved, however. Many riders choose to pedal along without a helmet because it is easier than toting one everywhere they go. Helmet sharing is one option, but another is a lightweight helmet made from recycled newspaper that retails for about $1.50. It is waterprooof for up to 6 hours. If you ride longer than that in the rain, you may want to seek professional help!
Calculating how much congestion and pollution bike sharing avoids is difficult, because there is little data showing how often riders substitute using a bicycle for going by car. “Many people using bike-share programs in denser cities are only avoiding public transit rather than avoiding driving a car, muting the CO2 benefits of bike-share programs,” reported Climate Central in 2014. On the other hand, “in less dense cities, bike sharing is used as a way to connect people to public transit, which would enhance the climate benefit.”
Whatever the data may or may not suggest, getting some exercise outdoors has got to be better than riding in a 2 ton steel cocoon while tweeting and hooking up with friends on social media.