San Francisco’s launch of Bay Area Bike Share has pushed the United States bicycle sharing fleet above 18,000, more than double the number of bikes in service since the beginning of the year. Bay Area Bike Share launched with 700 bikes and 70 stations in San Francisco, Redwood City, Mountain View, Palo Alto, and San Jose with ambitious plans to eventually expand to 10,000 bikes. There are now 34 bike-sharing programs in the U.S. with the biggest being New York’s Citi Bike, which launched earlier this year with 6,000 bicycles at 332 stations throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn.

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Chicago also launched a bike sharing scheme this year with Divvy Bikes. There are now 1,500 Divvy bikes rolling around the Windy City with plans to double that number to 3,000 by the end of the year. Before NYC, Washington, D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare was the biggest bike sharing system in America with nearly 2,000 bikes and 201 stations in the District as well as Arlington and Alexandria, Virginia. Capital Bikeshare will expand to Montgomery County, Maryland at the end of 2013.

The U.S. fleet could double again next year when Los Angeles, San Diego, Portland (Oregon), Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Seattle and other smaller cities are expected to launch bike sharing programs.

Bike sharing is booming across the world, with 500,000 bicycles rolling around 500 cities in 49 countries. China operates the biggest bike sharing system in the world, with four cities that have more bikes than the entire U.S. — Wuhan, Hangzhou, Zhuzhou and Shanghai. Paris is the only non-Chinese city in the top five, coming in third. Vélib covers the Paris region with nearly 24,000 bicycles and claims to have the highest density in the world with one bike per 97 city residents.

Via Grist

Lead image via Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious