People for Bikes recently published an infographic with many compelling facts about the increasing popularity of bike-sharing programs in American cities. They say currently there are 1,700 sharing stations with 17,000 bikes for sharing or short-term rental. For example, San Francisco has 700 bikes at 70 stations. Other cities they list with similar programs are Anaheim, Charlotte, Madison, Kansas City, Omaha and Tulsa, to name only a handful. They also list cities with protected bike lanes such as Austin, Bend and Palm Springs, to name just three of the many. Other American cities, like San Diego, will have bike sharing programs soon.
It is truly inspiring to see so many cities are developing their community bike resources. Climate change emissions are reduced when we drive less. The US also has an obesity epidemic, and the more we move – rather than sit in cars – we can be healthier. According to the CDC, about 600,000 Americans die from heart disease each year. The financial cost of heart disease in America is almost $109 billion per year. A significant number of heart disease cases and heart attacks each year are preventable, with lifestyle changes such as regular exercise and diet. In 2010, the CDC estimated that about 200,000 deaths from heart disease were avoidable.
So, bike-sharing programs make great sense, because they encourage physical movement and reduce the rather consuming habit of sitting all day, whether behind the wheel of a car or a computer screen.
Believe it or not, there are also economic benefits for local neighborhoods when biking is supported. Recreation and tourism dollars associated with biking can number in the hundreds or millions of dollars, per state. Biking generates about $400 million per year in the state of Iowa, according to Fast Company.
American culture has been very car-centric for a long time, but it appears that trend is shifting towards more bike-able and walkable cities and neighborhoods. If this more active way of moving in urban areas is growing, there should be a number of benefits for our health, the environment and local economies. Foreign and domestic tourists also might enjoy visiting American cities more if they slow down by walking and biking more.