Despite the winter weather, I am still zipping around all bundled-up on my bike to meet friends at coffee shops, pubs and restaurants. Some people think I am nuts – but it is my way to whittle down and suppress my carbon footprint.
On some of these outings, I bring along my bike bag and do a little shopping. Carting home supplies in wintry weather can be challenging.
Some days, the weather poses too much of an obstacle and I’m grounded and revert to being a pedestrian. But on those nice days, when the air is crisp, biking short distances is invigorating and even enjoyable – its all about acclimation.
Yesterday in Washington, DC, it was a cold, crisp, beautiful winter day. I found myself downtown with about 30 minutes to get to my next appointment. I needed to head three miles across downtown to the Georgetown University campus to meet with a few MBAs entrepreneur students who are working with Green Blizzard.
Three city miles with dozens of cross streets in 30 minutes. I needed a little early St Patrick’s Day luck !
Since my bike was at home, I thought I’d have to jog, walk, or take the metro, bus or…. heaven forbid, hale a taxi.
But now DC offers a transportation alternative that’s gaining in popularity – Bike Share. It’s a convenient way to whittle away at your carbon footprint while saving time and money, and getting a little exercise.
Bike-sharing is sprouting up across the globe and is now available in more than 200 cities, according to Treehugger.com. It’s already in cities such as Melbourne, Boston, Denver, Montreal, London, Paris, Santiago and Buenos Aires, and it seems to be cropping up practically everywhere across Europe. Keep it in mind as a transportation option on your next trip – sure beats paying high cab fares. A few college campuses offer it now, too.
Capital Bikeshare was launched in September ’10 (Huffington Post) and is currently the largest in North America. With 110 stations across Washington, DC, and Arlington, VA, it offers 1,100 readily available bikes. That’s a lot of locations and bikes to make getting around the city easier and more eco-friendly than ever. It has big growth plans too.
All you need to do is swipe your credit card at the bike-rack kiosk to pay for a membership: $5 for 24 hours or $25 for a full month of use. In addition, you pay for how long you use the bike – the first 30 minutes are free, the first hour after that is $1.50, and every additional 30 minutes is another $1.50.
Capital Bikeshare explains its pricing in this way, “You can take as many trips as you’d like during your membership period, and the first 30 minutes of each trip are free! After the first 30 minutes, you will be charged an additional fee, based on our rate chart. For example, a 90-minute trip would cost you nothing for the first 30 minutes, $1.50 for the second 30 minutes, and $3.00 for the third – for a total of $4.50 for the trip. If you would like to take a bike for an extended period (two+ continuous hours), we recommend that you rent a bike from a local bike shop.”
Operating the kiosk is as simple as pumping gas. After a few steps, it gives you a simple five-digit unlocking code. Select your bike, punch in the code, get on your bike and off you go. The whole transaction takes only about one minute the first time and 15 seconds every time after that. The bikes are sturdy, smooth-riding, and easy to get on and off. They’re like bikes you’d rent at the beach, only slicker. They even have a basket and LED night light on the front. Splatter guards cover the chain and tires so you arrive looking clean and spiffy.
Honestly, it’s an ingenious idea. In fact, the system has already won a few international design awards for ingenuity.
European cities, where citizens of all ages regularly ride bikes, are light years ahead on this emissions-saving, carbon-footprint-reducting system. In fact, the bikeshare concept has been popular in major European cities since 2006. Both London and Paris have the same system as Washington (Montreal and Ottawa have it, too). It’s a great option if the walk is too long or it’s too cold outside.
It’s a whole new level of traveling green, and it’s like a library for transportation! The need to reduce your carbon footprint moves with you wherever you go; it’s not just an “at-home” objective.
Bike-sharing will not only save you money and most likely time, but it gives you a better sense of the city you are traveling around. So next time you travel for either leisure or business, keep bike sharing in mind.
Green Blizzard gives this innovative city travel option one giant reduce-your-carbon-footprint thumbs up!