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Imagine walking to a sidewalk corner and finding a public bicycle. With a cellphone call or swipe of a card, you unlock it from its bike rack and ride it across town. Once at your destination, you steer to the closest bike rack and, with one more call or card swipe, return the bike to the public network. You pay less than $.50 for the trip, and the bike is once again available for the taking.

Bike-sharing already exists in cities across Europe, revolutionizing transportation networks and greening the urban fabric. We highlighted eight cities with successful programs:

paris

Name: Velib LauNched: July, 2007 BicycLes: 10,000 statioNs: 750 city popuLatioN: 2.15 million NumBer of citizeNs per Bike: 215 avaiLaBiLity: Year-round price structure: Riders can select a oneday card for 1, a weekly card for 5 or an annual card for 29. First half-hour is free. Additional half-hours are priced at 1, 2 and 4. techNoLogy: Smartcard operatiNg compaNy: JC Decaux

By far the largest bike-share program to-date, paris plans to have installed over 10,000 bikes by July, 2007, and 20,000 by 2008. Mayor Bertrand Delanoe launched the Velib network as part of his wide-reaching program to green Paris and reduce vehicular traffic in the central city. To help riders navigate the streets, maps and safety manuals in several languages will be available at every station.

BarceLoNa

Name: Bicing LauNched: March, 2007 BicycLes: 1,500 statioNs: 100 city popuLatioN: 1.5 million NumBer of citizeNs per Bike: 1,000 avaiLaBiLity: Year-round, 5am to midnight, 24 hours a day on Friday and Saturday. price structure: Riders must apply via mail for a swipe card and purchase an annual subscription for 24. First half-hour is free. Additional half-hours are priced at .30, with a maximum rental time of two hours. techNoLogy: Smartcard, and optional credit card. operatiNg compaNy: Clear Channel Adshel

Like many bike-share programs, Bicing offers its users a Google mash-up, with the number of available bikes at every station updated in real-time. BarceLoNa is currently in the process of expanding its program to 3,000 bikes by the end of 2007. As of today, Bicing had attracted 62,000 registered users.

copeNhageN

Name: Bycyklen LauNched: 1995 BicycLes: 2,000 statioNs: 110 city popuLatioN: 600,000 NumBer of citizeNs per Bike: 400 avaiLaBiLity: April to November price structure: Riders deposit a 20 kroner coin into the bike handlebar to unlock it from the bike rack. Bikes may be rented for unlimited amounts of time, although they may not leave the designated boundary of the old city. The 20 kroner coin is returned when the bike is locked back into the rack. techNoLogy: Coin deposit operatiNg compaNy: City Bike Foundation of Copenhagen

Bycyklen bikes were designed to be simple (they are single-speed), durable and adjustable. They are also conspicuous. In fact, the program is supported in part by advertising placed on each of the bike wheels. copeNhageN has announced the goal of increasing to 5,000 bikes and enlarging the dedicated area.

fraNkfurt

Name: Call a Bike LauNched: 2003 BicycLes: 720 statioNs: 66 city popuLatioN: 650,000 NumBer of citizeNs per Bike: 900 price structure: 8 cents per minute, with a maximum of 15 per day, and 60 per week. techNoLogy: Mobile phone operatiNg compaNy: Deutsche Bahn

Call a Bike is run in several German cities, including fraNkfurt, through a system of authentication codes that automatically locks and unlocks bikes. Residents can approach any Call-a-Bike bicycle at any major intersection within the city. If the green light is blinking on the lock, the bicycle is available. After registering oneself over the phone, the user calls the number displayed on the lock and is given a key code. Bikes can be returned to the network by locking to any fixed structure (except a traffic signal) and entering a new code into the lock.

LyoN

Name: Velov LauNched: 2005 BicycLes: 3,000 statioNs: 350 city popuLatioN: 450,000 NumBer of citizeNs per Bike: 150 avaiLaBiLity: Year-round price structure: Rider must purchase either a long-term or short-term subscription card. First half-hour is free. Pricing then varies for each additional hour. techNoLogy: Smartcard operatiNg compaNy: JC Decaux

Three months after Velov launched, 15,000 users were taking 4,000 trips a day. Today, daily ridership reaches 30,000. LyoN intends to expand its fleet by an additional 1,000 bikes by the end of 2007, with the goal of having stations within 300 meters of every point in the city. JC Decaux absorbed all set-up and operating costs in exchange for a bus-shelter advertising contract.

osLo

Name: Citybike LauNched: 2003 BicycLes: 1,200 statioNs: 100 city popuLatioN: 475,000 NumBer of citizeNs per Bike: 400 avaiLaBiLity: Year-round, 6 am to midnight price structure: Yearly subscription card, which is available for 70 kroner/year techNoLogy: Smartcard operatiNg compaNy: Clear Channel Adshel

Clear Channel Adshel has installed Citybikes in four Norwegian cities: Trondheim, Drammen, Bergen and osLo. Citybike is fully funded by Clear Channel Adshel in exchange for street-furniture advertising contracts.

pampLoNa

Name: Nbici LauNched: July, 2007 BicycLes: 350 statioNs: 20 city popuLatioN: 200,000 NumBer of citizeNs per Bike: 570 avaiLaBiLity: Year-round, 8am to 6pm (extended summer hours) price structure: First half-hour is free. Each additional half-hour costs .50. techNoLogy: Smartcard operatiNg compaNy: Cemusa

Nbici is the newest addition to Europes bikeshare network, having launched in early July. It is also Cemusas first foray into bike-sharing. Like most European bike-share programs, nbici is funded through an advertising contract. The City of pampLoNa offered Cemusa control over 50 advertising panels, 40 clocks, 50 advertising fences and 29 posters in exchange for funding nbici in its entirety.

stockhoLm

Name: Storstockholms Lokaltrafik (SL) LauNched: 2006 BicycLes: 1,000 statioNs: 80 City population: 800,000 Number of citizens per bike: 80 avaiLaBiLity: April-November, 6 am to 6 pm (last bike can be taken at 5:59) price structure: Daily passes cost 25 kroner ($4.50), and season passes cost 200 kroner ($36). There is no fee to check out a bike, but penalties are imposed after a maximum rental time of three hours. techNoLogy: Smartcard operatiNg compaNy: Clear Channel Adshel

In 2006 stockhoLm launched a congestion pricing program to charge motorists to enter the city center. It has since been recognized as one of the worlds most successful, and Swedens parliament voted in June, 2007, to make the charge permanent. Stockholms bike-share program has been lauded as a complimentary effort to attract those who might otherwise travel inside the city center by car.

couLd Bike-shariNg work iN New york? The Forum for Urban Design and Storefront for Art and Architecture decided to launch our own small experiment, offering 20 bicycles for free 30minute rentals from 97 Kenmare and a satellite location. With an average of about two dozen riders per day, we assembled the following reactions: Many of the visitors to the New York Bike-Share Project do not currently own bicycles. They overwhelmingly said they would participate in a bike-share program if they didnt have to worry about storing a bike in their apartment, or worrying about theft.

what are the Best reasoNs for LauNchiNg a Bike-share program iN New york? Bike-sharing is the greenest form of urban transportation second to walking. New Yorks mass transit is over capacity, and capital improvements to our buses and subways can take billions of dollars and decades to implement. New Yorks waterfront is widely inaccessible by current mass transit. Many of New Yorks neighborhoods are not well-connected by current mass transit.

For a bike-share program to be successful, democratic and helpful in New York, it must adhere to the following non-negotiable principles:

the first haLf-hour must Be free. Bike-sharing is democratic transportation. In Lyon, 90% of trips clock in at less than 30 minutesthat is, at no cost to the user. New Yorkers may enjoy using the system for longer trips at some cost, but the pricing structure must ensure that short trips are free.

ThERE MUST BE A SUFFICIENT DENSITY OF BIKES AND STATIONS. For a bike-share system to work, New Yorkers must be aware of the program, be reasonably certain that a bike will be available, and be confident that they can return their bike to a convenient location. A good rule of thumb: bike stations should be on each avenue, and on every four streets. While a modest bike-share program might be an appealing first step, it must be highly dense in whatever its geographic area. A bold, dense program will be more visible, dependable and user-friendly.

A BIKE-ShARE PROGRAM MUST BE INDEPENDENT AND FLExIBLE. Bike-sharing will be a component of New Yorks mass transit network, but it must be independent of the MTA. This will allow the program the opportunity to launch quickly, adjust efficiently and remove itself from the politics of unwieldy city/state bureaucracies.

USERS MUST BE ABLE TO RENDER A BIKE IMMEDIATELY. A New York bike-share must be accessible to tourists as well as residents. Therefore, users must have the option of rendering a bike through a swipe of a credit-card.

To imagine a bike-share program in New York, consider the following locations:

wiLLiamsBurg/greeNpoiNt A neighborhood exploding in population and underserved by mass transit. pop: 160,338 residents ( according to 2000 Census data ) size: 4.9 square miles use: short trips, recreation proposaL: 350 bikes at 20 stations

hudsoN river park A linear park that spans most of Manhattans west side. use: short trips, commuting, recreation proposaL: 350 bikes at 20 s