Several cities across the country rolled out bike share programs this year. Denver’s B-cycle program (more than 400 bikes at 42 solar-powered stations) was unveiled last Earth Day as the first large-scale municipal bike sharing system in the United States. Washington, D.C. first opened a limited network of kiosks called SmartBike in June (100 bicycles at 10 locations), then most recently instituted the new Capital Bikeshare program (1,100 bicycles at 114 solar-powered stations) in the District and Arlington, Virginia in September. Minneapolis launched its NiceRide system of 700 bikes at 65 stations which operated April through early November.
So what are the prospects of bike sharing for city park systems? In Minneapolis, the stations are mostly located outside of parks but users may be checking the bikes out and using city trails and parks that are nearby or on their way to destinations. For instance, a cyclist could take a bike from the University of Minnesota and travel along the Mississippi River parks and Stone Arch Bridge. Or, someone may check a bike out downtown and head to the Minneapolis Institute of Art or Midtown.
One of the exciting opportunities these new bike share programs present is the possibility of greater connectivity for the urban park system. The more locations available to pick-up or return a bicycle, the more options residents will have to visit parks or use trails as part of their every day activities. Some programs even cater to tourists by providing daily and monthly memberships in addition to the annual agreements most users are familiar with, allowing these visitors to participate in the program and possibly even advocate for one in their own city.
As more cities climb on board this trendy and convenient mode of transportation, it will be interesting to see if the park supporters and bicycle champions work in tandem to push not only for more bike lanes through the city, but trails and connections to all of the parks in the city.