MPC Research Assistant Lawrence Montague wrote this article.
Bike commuting is on the rise in cities across the nation and Chicago is no different. Last month, 478 companies in the Chicagoland area participated in the Active Transportation Alliance 2010 Bike to Work Week event, up 48 percent from 2009. Realizing the positive effects that bike commuting has on employee and environmental health, some companies, such as The Burke Group, have taken strides to encourage bike commuting year round. The civil engineering firm based in Rosemont, Ill., offers a cash incentive of 75 cents for every mile, in addition to quarterly and annual giveaways for employees with the most miles commuted by bike. Four company bikes are also available to employees for the commute from the office to their nearest transit station.
Mayor Richard M. Daley, a bike enthusiast, announced during Bike to Work Week the launch of a bike-sharing pilot program in Chicago beginning in July. The pilot program, Chicago B-cycle, will start with 100 bikes at six stations. Participants can purchase a daily membership card for $10 or a 90-day pass to access a bike and lock. Hourly rates are also available: after leaving the bike station, the first half hour is free and each additional half hour is $2.50. Depending on the success of the program, Chicago B-cycle could be expanded to other key destinations and transit stations throughout the city.
Similar bike-sharing systems already exist across the country. The Federal Highway Administration and Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Minnesota Center for Prevention sponsored Nice Ride, a bike-sharing system in Minneapolis, which recorded 10,000 trips just 20 days after the program started. In Denver, Colo., 8,000 registered bike-share users can check an iPhone application to find out if bikes are available at designated stations. Washington, DC, Boston, Mass., Miami, Fla., and Philadelphia, Penn., are all also in various stages of their bicycle sharing programs.
Not only is bicycling a cleaner, greener way of traveling, it’s also healthy and a lot of fun. Unfortunately, less than 2 percent of federal transportation funding goes toward bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure such as bike lanes and sidewalk improvements. As more cities begin to realize the benefits of bike-friendly communities, pressure is building to increase that percentage.
This article was featured in Talking Transit, MPC's bi-weekly e-newsletter. To sign up to receive Talking Transit, please visit http://www.metroplanning.org/signup.html.