Bike Sharing Now in 100 European Cities

Zaragoza Bike Share photo

First was the news that the London bike share program (conspicuously sponsored by Barclay's Bank) expects to break even and turn a profit in the next few years. Now Spiegel magazine reports that a new record has been reached, with 100 European cities supporting some type of bike sharing program. Why are we so far behind with this congenial form of inner city transport?

Spiegel wonders whether the bike share trend will continue. In Paris, Vélib definitely caused people to change their habits - nearly half of Vélib users say they drive less due to getting on a Vélib more. And France has embraced bike sharing - nearly 30 French cities have programs.

Barcelona is another stellar example of bike sharing. The city's residents took to Bici ferociously, with thousands signing up when the system first started. Since then, there's been a noticeable decrease in subscriptions due to a change in the system implemented to control bike loss. But Bici is now part of the city's fast and furious fabric.

But for every Barcelona and Paris there are ten other, less-noted bike share systems that seem to be flourishing. In Hamburg, Spiegel notes, 500,000 trips were taken last year using the StadtRAD bike share, which is seen as one of the most successful projects implemented by the city's coalition government. There are bike share systems in Rennes, France (officially the world's first), in Valencia, Sevilla, and Zaragoza, Spain, in Brussels, Belgium, and in Vienna, Austria. Poland has two bike share systems, and even frigid Norway and Finland have a system each (though Helsinki's will close, Spiegel reports).

Some people think bike sharing is an expensive drain on city coffers and will not be successful in the long run. But cities seem to be finding innovative ways to fund bike sharing - through a combination of user fees, corporation sponsorships, and advertising. And if success is in number of adopters, bike sharing seems on its way to being a success story in Europe, at least.

In the U.S. just over a dozen American cities have thus far opted to implement bike sharing, with premier cycling city Minneapolis being one fo the latest to add one. Cost and the pervasiveness of car culture may be the main impediments, though public officials like Don Maes in Colorado have even attempted to characterize bike sharing as unconstitutional and part of a plot for world government.