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Chicago Takes Tentative First Step Toward Bike-Sharing

11:00 AM EDT on June 29, 2010

B_Cycle_Chicago.jpgA pilot station for Chicago's proposed bike-sharing program, on display a couple of weeks ago. Photo: vizcha via Flickr

Public bike-sharing is coming to yet another American city. 

The concept, first proven in Lyon, France and made famous by Paris's Vélib, offers members easy access to public bikes at stations across a city. With bike sharing, you don't have to own a bike to be a cyclist, and parking is taken care of. Unlike with most bike rentals, short trips are cheap, making bike-sharing perfectly suited for cycling as transportation. 

Earlier this summer, Denver's B-cycle program became the largest bike-sharing program in the country, with 500 bikes; Minneapolis followed with a similarly sized program just weeks later. Boston is planning its launch for next summer, while Washington D.C. intends to expand from its 120-bike pilot to a system with 1,100 bikes. 

So Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's recent announcement of a new bike-sharing program for his city, reported by member blog Livin in the Bike Lane, isn't going to be the first in the country, nor, with 100 bikes, will it be the largest. It's really just a demonstration. But it will show many Chicagoans a new way of getting around their city. Plus, as D.C. has shown, if there's an appetite for a true system, the pilot could grow quickly.

Here are the details, via Livin in the Bike Lane:

Mayor Daley announced at the Bike to Work Week Rally last week that Chicago is getting a bike share program come July. He's been talking about this for many years, so we're glad it's finally happening. Chicago is following Denver's lead and using the B-cycle bike-share program, which seems to have been quite popular there since it started in April with 500 bikes and over 18,000 rides so far.

In Chicago, riders will need to have a membership card to get a bike and lock (helmet not included). Cards are $10 for one day, or $35 for 30 days, $45 for 60 days, and $55 for 90 days. The first half-hour on the bike is free, and each additional half hour is $2.50. Bikes will be available for pickup at McCormick Place, Museum Campus, Buckingham Fountain, the Chicago Park District headquarters at 541 N. Fairbanks Ct., and two downtown locations to be announced. Drop-offs are at any B-station, Navy Pier, North Avenue beach, Millennium Park, and any Bike & Roll rental station.

If you've had the chance to try out bike-sharing in Denver, Minneapolis, or D.C., tell us about your experience so far. Has it changed the way you get around? And what do you think about a small demo like this? Will starting with only 100 bikes help build momentum for a real bike-sharing program in Chicago, or is it so limited that the public won't understand how useful bike-sharing can be?

More from around the network: BikePortland lets us know that at Portland's airport, they've installed a bike assembly station for cyclists fresh off the plane. The Avenue discusses the biggest trade bottleneck on the planet, a bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. And Bike Friendly Oak Cliff highlights a graphic showing the not-so-surprising fact that spending on bike and pedestrian programs is correlated with biking and walking. 

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