Free Ride: there is no charge for the first 30 minutes for a Vélib bike in Paris
(Photo: ZBKTV on flickr)
For a long time now, you've been able to rent a bicycle for a day or two up to a week or more in cities worldwide, especially those that are popular tourist destinations. But finding the rental service was often tricky and due to low demand prices were often high.
However, over the last few years, a new generation of on-demand, short-term bicycle rental services, known as bike sharing, has emerged that is effectively replacing traditional bike rental service.
Bicycle sharing programs as opposed to rental programs imply the ability to obtain a bicycle without human assistance at a moment's notice for very short-term usage, ie, a day or an hour with the first 30 minutes usually free as is the case with the Vélib bike sharing system in Paris, France. Modern bike sharing programs are operated by pre-registering an account (usually online with a credit card) and then locating and unlocking a bike electronically using a one-time code obtained via mobile phone.
Today a location-based bicycle rental service can inform you almostly instantly of the closest bike, provide you with an unlocking code, bill your credit card and, when you're finished, give you a lock code, all from the convenience of your mobile phone. With some bike sharing services, if you return the bike within a given time limit (usually 30 minutes), its free.
Bicycle sharing services are only successful where helmets are not required by law. Logistically it is very difficult to provide helmets and most users of such services will not want to bring a helmet along with them to wear while cycling.
A critical consideration for a successful bike sharing programs is that the bikes have fenders as well as lights and reflectors to keep riders' cloths clean and to be usable at night. It may seem obvious, but bike sharing programs in the past have failed, partly due to the fact that the bicycles were not practical for city use.
The downside of popular bike-sharing programs is that a high portion of bicycles are vandalized or stolen. In Paris, 80 percent of the Vélib bicycles have been affected.
Nonetheless, if you don't own a bike living in the city, consider using a bike sharing program.
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