This summer I was lucky enough to visit Montreal for the first time. My favorite part of the experience wasn’t the great cultural institutions, history, architecture, art, or festivals – but the experience of being in a city that has embraced bicycles. The Bixi program and designated bike-ways around the city were a joy to ride.
Based on a system popular in Europe, and launched in May 2009, the Bixi bicycle rental program allows users to quickly and easily rent bicycles for short rides across town. Rental rates are cheap ($5/24 hours access or only $78/year) and the city is adding 2,000 bikes to 100 new stations due to the program’s popularity. In just a few months, bikes were rented more than 250,000 times. An iPhone application even allows users to locate available docks and bicycles easily in real time. The program’s not cheap (some $22 million for a total of 5,000 bikes and 400 solar-powered stations), but it was amazingly convenient and a great way to experience the city.
I recognize that particular approach is not realistic for Cleveland (at least, not at this point in time). It’s expensive and the density and layout of our region is different from others. However, Northeast Ohio has taken many positive steps forward in becoming more bike-friendly. Designated bike lanes have made the ride down Euclid safer and faster. I’ve noticed more cyclists and signage throughout the city. In Montreal, paved trails through the urban landscape connect the city to trails along its canals. Plans in Cleveland to connect multi-use trails from the lake to the Emerald necklace and beyond are well underway.
Check out a few of Cleveland’s bike initiatives (including several past grant recipients):
- The Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s City Bikes program is off to a great start – offering reasonable rentals for tourists and residents to enjoy the city from a different perspective.
- Cleveland Bikes offers Cleveland Bicycle Week and other programs and information.
- The Ohio City Bike Co-op helps young riders earn free bikes in addition to other programs.
- Walk & Roll has taken its programs to various Cleveland neighborhoods this summer.
- Plans for a downtown Cleveland Bike Station for commuters are underway and will mark a huge step forward for our transportation infrastructure.
Also check out Green City, Blue Lake’s great website, specifically the section on bikes for more links and documents. Seriously, it’s filled with great stuff.
It should be noted, not everyone is enthusiastic about bike sharing systems. Often an ongoing hate-hate debate comes up between cyclists and automobile drivers – each blaming the other for various wrongs. I will refrain from the cliché of “Can’t we all just get along and share the road” but will say that bicycles contribute great things to a city, and are certainly a piece of the puzzle to making Cleveland great.
What do you think?