Can Bikes Replace Cars in New York City?

bikeCall it the year of the bicycle! As of June, seven cities across the US have added bike sharing programs and another twenty are launching programs before the end of 2013. Among the most recent and publicized of these cities is New York. Since Memorial Day, New York’s Citi Bikes program has made over 6,000 bikes available at 330 docking stations in Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Modeled after successful programs in Montreal, Boston, and Barcelona, Citi Bikes sold over 29,156 total annual memberships and 75,707 rides in its first week of operation. While some users have expressed frustration (i.e. over necessary “check-ins”, occasional broken docks, overtime fees etc), many offer positive reviews. In particular, they highlight the convenience of the bikes, which unlock with the swipe of credit card and allow for quick commutes when public transportation is lacking or traffic is heavy. Some also describe the program as a “fun” way to gain an “entirely different view of the city”.

But perhaps the greatest benefit of the program is the resulting decrease in vehicle use and, by extension, greenhouse gas emissions. According to Gabe Klein, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation and a founder of the Capital Bikeshare program in Washington DC, “40% percent of trips in urban areas are 2 miles or less, but 90% of those trips are taken in a car.” Thus, if you can encourage a fraction of individuals to switch to bikes, you can considerably reduce vehicle-related emissions. In Barcelona, for example, where 11% of the population engage in bike sharing (1.7% regularly), researchers estimated that “carbon dioxide emissions may be reduced by 10,000 tons a year”.

To learn more about bike sharing and its environmental impact, please contact our partner, Clean Air Cool Plant. Also, to find a bike-sharing program near you, visit The Bike-sharing World Map.

 Flickr photo credit: Ethan Lofton

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