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Bike Sharing 101: Exploring The World On Two Wheels

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Everything old is new again, except in the case of riding a bicycle because it never really went out of style in the first place – many of us simply just forgot how cool it is to hit the road with the wind coaxing you along every step of the way. We can probably chalk up our bike forgetfulness to poor urban planning and our consequent dependence on a hungry, petroleum-guzzling automobile, but now – in an effort to inspire global residents and tourists alike to trip the sunlight fantastic (and leave their carbon footprints behind) – urban bike rental programs are dominating the landscape both nationally and abroad.

Is a sorely-needed summer getaway in your immediate future? Whether you opt for a local staycation or an exotic international journey, by all means, explore the nooks and crannies of your intended destination with a little body-powered cycling. It’ll bestow your cheeks with a rosy glow, keep your metabolism/immune system firing on all cylinders and enable you to really experience the simple cultural and scenic wonders that are often missed when we blow by them via four wheels. Furthermore, you might just realize that riding a bicycle is genuinely fun! This could be the impetus for your very own eco-transportation transformation… and it certainly doesn’t hurt that it’s easier on the budget, too.

In terms of bicycle rental programs, read on for an overview of the many cycling initiatives around the globe, but if you don’t see your favored destination, please resist the urge to abandon your pedaling dreams and gasoline-free wishes altogether. Instead, get clicky with it (using your favorite search engine, that is)!

Alaska Bike Rentals: If you’ve ever thought to yourself, “Boy, it would sure be nice to see the real great outdoors,” cruising through the Alaskan wilds on a two-wheeler would really be the way to do it up right. The price of an adult 24 hour bicycle rental – an easy to digest $32 – includes your choice of hybrid/comfort/mountain/road/tandem/child-friendly model plus a helmet, lock, repair kit, gear bag and map.

B-Cycle: Become an annual member and depending on the city you rent a bicycle from, pay as little as $5 for a 24 hour bicycle rental, $15 for one week or $50 for one year. This increasingly popular rental program is available in Colorado (Boulder, Denver, Louisville), Florida (Broward County), Hawaii (Kailua), Idaho (Des Moines), Illinois (Chicago), Nebraska (Omaha), South Carolina (Spartanburg), Texas (San Antonio) and Wisconsin (Madison).

Bike and Roll: ServingChicago, Miami, New York City, San Francisco and Washington, DC, this company's bicycle rental price includes the use of a brand new Trek model (considered the gold standard in steel-framed mountain two-wheelers) along with protective head gear, a handlebar bag, lock and even a city map. Depending on the type of bike you reserve and the particular city you ride around in, a 24 hour rental will set you back as little as $25 for a child all the way up to $69 for a two-seat tandem.

Bike Rental Central Park: Planning on exploring the Big Apple on two wheels? This company offers one of the more affordable 24 hour rentals for a major U.S. city as long as you reserve your model online. A mere $32 gets you the cruiser/hybrid/mountain/baby-friendly bike of your choice plus a helmet, lock and map.

BikeWashington: Our nation’s capital isn’t particularly known for its budget friendly tourist attractions, which is why it’s quite nice that this organization created a basic roundup of the major area bicycle rental outlets along with simple price comparisons. If you’re seeking the most budget friendly option, you can get away with dropping $25 for a full day hybrid rental through Big Wheel Bikes’ Old Town Store.

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Bixi: Even Time Magazine has given props to this comprehensive Montreal-based bike sharing program which was launched three years ago with the sole intent of inspiring residents to get out and about on the city’s ambling, scenic bike paths. If you've been itching to explore Montreal, you really owe it to yourself to savor the sights and sounds of this Europeanesque North American treasure while putting the pedals to the metal.

BlazingSaddles: Those in the New York and California region will pay anywhere from $25 for a child’s 24 hour rental to $39 for a cruiser, $44 for a comfort breezer, $69 for a carbon Marin Stelvio and $74 for an electric two wheeler. To sweeten the deal, this company even offers a downloadable 10% web discount.

Capital Bikeshare: This program – serving the Arlington, Virginia and Washington, DC region – is said to be the largest urban bike sharing organization in the United States, and with $5 full-day rentals (when you become a member), it’s no wonder.Unlike the majority of the other programs detailed in this article, Capital Bikeshare offers users access to their two wheelers for the low-low price of free when they ride for 30 minutes or less, encouraging errand-worthy exercise stints. Very nice!

City Bike: It makes sense thatCopenhagen – with its deeply invested eco-cred and overt love of two-wheeled transportation – would (as far back as 1995) pony up the big bucks for their ByCyklen urban bike sharing system. They’re now in the process of revamping it, with plans of unveiling new modernized features in 2013.

Portland Bureau of Transportation: Offering eight different bicycle rental companies such as Kerr Bikes, Waterfront Bicycles and Clever Cycles at the click of a mouse, this no-nonsense informational source makes finding a ride easy-breezy. (FYI: Waterfront charges an average of $30 for children’s one-day Jamis rentals and $40 for various adult Fuji models… but Kerr wins the price war for their $25 full-day children’s rental and $28 adult cruiser offering.)

RentaBikeNow: Unlike its competitors, this website features rental options from well over 250 US-based bicycle shops. Just click on the map to select your state of choice – such as Seattle, Washington – and you’ll see that Alki Bike and Board offers quite a number of models for a reasonable $35.00 charge (per 24 hour rental period) as long as you give them a day’s notice.

Hangzhou Bike Share: Part of Hangzhou, China’s public transportation system, this is – hands down – the largest and most successful global cycle rental program of its kind with a fleet of 51,500 bicycles and 2,050 rental locations that are entirely free to use for the first hour. A free 90 minute bicycle rental is even included in the price of a standard bus fare, enabling citizens to do away with automobile commuting altogether.

Velib: This much-heralded Paris-based bike sharing system – which admittedly suffered a staggering monetary setback thanks to the theft and outright destruction of 80% of its rentals – still manages to set the standard for auto-free, affordable, easily accessible two-wheeling convenience that is undeniably better for our bodies and the planet. Today, they’re noted for being the second largest global bicycle sharing program with an impressive 1,450 rental stations throughout Paris.

Image: liza31337

For more juicy green goodness, follow Elizah via Twitter @elizahleigh

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