We got a nice chuckle out of last week’s The New Yorker cover by artist Marcellus Hall depicting the much-anticipated (and much-hyped) launch of New York City’s new bike sharing program, Citibike. Even though it joins hundreds of bike-sharing programs already in existence, you’d think the media darling was the first of its kind.
But take one glance at this Bike Sharing World Map created by The Bike Sharing Blog and Metro Bike and you’ll see that NYC is but a spoke in the wheel of the burgeoning bike share movement. It’s a movement that began in Amsterdam nearly 50 years ago with Witte Fiestsen (or White Bikes) and was followed by other European cities including Copenhagen, Denmark; Portsmouth, England; and Lyon, France. But it wasn’t until the mid-2000’s that the rest of Europe and the world began to catch up. Cyclocity, which launched in 2003, now operates in 10 countries, 66 cities, and recently logged its 300,000,000th rider. Paris, which claims title to the largest bike sharing program in the world, Velib, keeps a fleet of 20,000 velos operating around the city daily.
Of course, there are the obvious benefits of bike sharing programs; they replace cars, therefore relieving road congestion. In Paris, Velib reduced Paris traffic by 5% in the first year. They help you stay fit and healthy and decrease obesity. They cost less for the cyclist than operating a car (and may even make money for the city). And our favorite—it’s better for the environment. To give you an idea of just how much better: in a review of the CycloCity system, Bourcier.com estimates that the 46,536 bicycles used in its world fleet alleviates 33,899 metric tons of CO2 each year. That’s equivalent to eliminating roughly 6600 cars every year.
What does this mean for NYC—the new home to the nation’s largest bike share program? In less than 48 hours after its inaugural pedal, cyclists had traveled 32,625 miles during nearly 13,000 trips. That’s equivalent to eliminating about 13.8 metric tons of C02 in just two days. So despite all of the hoopla and headlines, if you ask us, CitiBike seems to be living up to the hype.