Gallery: First U.S. Bike Share Program Kicks into Gear!


We’ve written about bike sharing programs across Europe and now, as bike month begins, we’re happy to share that the US has finally warmed up to the idea, making bike rental as simple and quick as a card swipe. Washington recently unveiled SmartBike DC, the first fully automated touch-and-go rental program in the US. It operates on a similar principle to Zipcar and other car sharing services, offering 120 bicycles at 10 locations throughout the city center. Jim Sebastian, manager of bicycle and pedestrian programs for Washington’s Transportation Department, is convinced that the program will take off, cutting congestion, pollution, and parking problems citywide.

Cities around the world have kick started public bike rental programs as global gas prices soar and concerns over carbon emissions deepen. This is welcome news, since you’d be hard pressed to find a greener mode of transportation – bicycles are cheap, efficient, and emission free. Copenhagen, Berlin, Barcelona and Lyon have already embraced the trend, and Paris recently initiated its epic Vélib program, supplying its streets with a veritable fleet of 20,000 bikes.

The Washington District of Transportation has teamed up with Clear Channel for the SmartBike DC program, exchanging advertising space for funds to maintain the bikes and improve upon the system. The arrangement is a boon to congested city districts, since it generates revenue while requiring cities to spend literally “no money on designing, marketing or maintaining” the program.

For a $40 membership fee, SmartBike users are free to rent a three speed for up to three hours at a time. An electronic system monitors the bikes, assuring timely returns and keeping track of lost bikes. If all goes well, Sebastian is hoping to expand the program up to 1,000 bicycles.

+ SmartBike DC

Via The New York Times

Vélib photo credit: Ed Alcock for the NY Times



or your inhabitat account below


  1. waysos January 2, 2009 at 10:12 am

    Funny that of allplaces Washington DC would import bicycles from foreign countries as opposed to using American Made Bicycles. Is anyone surprised that this county’s manufacturers are in such trouble?

  2. Jim F July 10, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    Nick, I ‘ve noticed that the Minneapolis Police Department is cracking down on bicyclists who don’t use bike racks. Since there are nowhere near enough bike racks around, this is certainly a step in the right direction!

  3. Mai424 June 27, 2008 at 10:19 am

    Wow, and there’s even a basket in the front to hold that helmet you’re not wearing on your head!

  4. lisenlon June 23, 2008 at 4:38 pm

    In Austin we also had the free yellow bike program but the bikes kept getting stolen. I still see a yellow bike once in a while.

  5. nick May 22, 2008 at 9:47 am

    In Minneapolis we had the yellow bikes. These were bikes left around the city that anyone could use.

get the free Inhabitat newsletter

Submit this form
popular today
all time
most commented
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
more popular stories >
Federated Media Publishing - Home