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Houston Set to Join Growing Bike Sharing Program

Common Dreams staff

Houston has announced this week that it is joining a growing number of cities across the nation by having a bike sharing program.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the new program will begin on May 2.

Sustainable advocates have lauded such programs as a way to help the environment while improving public health.

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Houston Chronicle: Bike share program launching

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US News and World Report: Bike Sharing Systems Aren't Trying to Peddle for Profit

The question is whether cash-strapped cities or the federal government want to sink money into systems that can struggle to break even.

Increasingly, America's cities are saying "Yes." Chicago is launching its fleet of of 3,000 bikes this fall, and according to the Chicago Tribune, $18 million of the $19.5 million in initial capital costs will come from federal grants. Portland, Oregon, is also planning on a system to debut in 2013, using $2 million in local transportation funds for the $4 million program, according to the Portland Tribune. Los Angeles will also soon have a 4,000-bike system, and New York City is also adding 10,000 bikes to its busy streets. However, both L.A. and New York are attempting to do so without help from taxpayers.

* * * Study: Bike Sharing Can Save Your Life

Bike sharing has become extremely popular in major cities around the world. Paris, Stockholm, Hangzhou and Mexico City have all implemented large scale bike sharing projects with great success. And there's even talk that Los Angeles might soon follow suit.

Rising fuel costs, traffic, lack of parking, and air pollution have motivated these cities to encourage their citizens to trade their cars for other forms of transportation. But now it seems there's proof of another bike sharing benefit: a longer life.

In addition to being cheaper and cleaner than driving a car, a new study published recently in the British Medical Journal found that bike sharing in urban environments can actually help save lives.

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Jay Walljasper writing on New. Clear. Vision.: Bikesharing in the U.S.

Minneapolis Program Demonstrates Successful Model

For all those who dismissed bike sharing as a woolly-headed European idea that would never work on the mean streets of U.S. cities, the success of the first season of the Minneapolis Nice Ride bike program will come as a surprise.

700 public bikes hit the streets in June at 65 stations, and they were taken for more than 100,000 rides until put away for the winter in mid-November. 1300 people signed up for an annual membership and 30,000 signed up for a $5 daily pass with the swipe of a credit card.

But the numbers that may be more significant for the future of bike sharing are three, two and none. That’s the number of bikes vandalized, the number of bikes stolen and the numbers of injuries reported. This conclusively answers numerous skeptics who thought that sharing bikes would never work here in the individualistic, auto-crazed USA.

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