Urban Bike Sharing - An Affordable & Fun Way To Explore A City

In recent years, public bicycle rental programs have sprouted in cities across the globe and bike sharing is on the verge of becoming an integral part of public transportation.

The urban bicycle rental bandwagon is not only helping urban areas reduce car traffic and pollution, but is also providing locals and tourists alike with an easy to use, affordable and healthy way of exploring the urban area.

Line of Bicycles
Line of bicycles at a Denver Bike Sharing station

Every decent European city has bike rental stands and there are nearly 300 organized bike sharing programs worldwide. Bike sharing is quickly becoming a new form of public transport, designed for short and fun trips crosstown.

The self-service bike rental programs are suitable for those who want to visit the city leisurely, as well as those who have to arrange their business activities but prefer fast and environmentally friendly transportation, avoiding traffic jams. 1 day, 1 week, 1 month or 1 year subscriptions are usually available.

Bike sharing 1
Bike sharing station in Milan

How does bike sharing work?

In most cities, visitors can purchase short-term subscriptions at the bike stations themselves. You can choose the duration you need the bike for at a station’s electronic kiosk and swipe your credit card. Next you can grab a bike and start exploring the city. The bike can then be droped off at any docking station nearby your destination.

Long-term subscriptions can usually be purchased online. Simply purchase the subscription that suits you best; you will get a membership card and you'll be able to pick up a bike whenever you need it and return it to one of the bike stations throughout the city. During the time of your subscription (however short or long), you can rent and return a bike as many times as you want.

Bangkok Smile Bike bike share
Bangkok Smile Bike docking station

Many cities have also developed handy and easy to use apps that locate and show you the status of the bike stations around you for a better bike sharing experience. One of these helpful apps is Spotcycle.

Some of the most bicycle friendly cities in the world are Amsterdam, Portland, Copenhagen, Boulder (Colorado, USA) , Davis (California, USA), Sandnes (Norway), San Francisco, Berlin, Barcelona and Basel (Switzerland).

Valenbisi - Valencia's Great Bike Share System

The earliest community bicycle program was started in the 1960s in Amsterdam. The free bicycles were supposed to be used for one trip and then left for someone else. Within a month, most of the bikes had been stolen and the rest were found in nearby canals. It wasn't till 1974 when the first truly successful bike sharing program was launched in the French city of La Rochelle. Nowadays, bike sharing programs enhance the  experience of travelers to many cities from Paris and New York, to Melbourne and Hangzhou.

Urban bicycle rental station in Barcelona

What's the most bicycle friendly city you've ever traveled to?

Photos from Flickr Creative Commons