a new win-win form of public transportation

21 07 2008

These days, high gas prices are affecting everyone here in America (and we still don’t have it as bad as many other countries).  In big cities, there are often forms of public transportation / mass transit, like buses and subways.

There’s a new form of public transportation that’s gaining traction in certain big cities in Europe.  It’s a bicycle rental service called Vélib’.  Basically, you pay an affordable subscription (whether by the day, week, or year), and you get unlimited use of the bikes.  The first 30 minutes of each usage is free, and there are increasing fees for the longer you keep it (so they’ll stay in circulation).

From what I’ve read, this is working well in Europe, reducing the workload of the mass transit systems (like buses and subways / metro trains).  I think this is a great idea!  Not only is it great for the environment, it’s also low-cost (which means less expense for your daily commute and lower taxes), and it promotes exercise and better health.  Obviously inclement weather conditions are an issue, although you could wear a poncho.

Where I live, it probably wouldn’t work well, because we don’t use any mass transit system.  Plus our summers here are very hot with a lot of humidity.  But in northern big cities where the buildings are packed together and there’s very limited parking, it’s a good idea.

On a related note, during my last trip to New York City, I saw bicycles that operated like taxis.  They had a back seat (for 2 or 3 people) and a covering.  We rode one to tour Central Park, and it worked out really well.  But we also saw them going around town, and in the congested parts of Manhattan, they can get you to your destination about as fast (or sometimes faster) than standard taxis.  (I’ve heard that traffic in downtown Manhattan averages about 6 miles per hour, and I believe it.)

I wonder how many Americans would be willing to try this new bicycle rental system…  It would save money, and it would be good for the environment, and it would help fight obesity, but it would require physical exertion.




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