As Chicago's Divvy bike sharing program prepares for a launch this summer, cities across the nation are doing the same. At the start of 2013, there were 22 major cities nationwide that had a bike sharing program similar to the one Chicago plans to use beginning in June. By 2014, that number is expected to double.
Bike share programs are simple in concept: people who want to use a bicycle as transit or for pleasure can rent a bicycle for a specified length of time, use it as they please, and then return the bike when they are finished. Most programs, including Chicago's, allow cyclists to rent either by the hour or to become a subscriber, where a designated fee is paid for unlimited monthly or yearly use. The most common form of bike share program uses solar powered docking stations and allows cyclists to check out a bike from one station and return it to another station, simplifying the process for those who only need transit one way. This also allows for an automated system that can keep costs low, making bike rental affordable for many regardless of what city they call home.
The first major bike sharing program began in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2007, though many credit the recent success experienced in Washington, D.C. for the proliferation of similar programs throughout the nation. The nation's capital is in the process of expanding their program into Virginia and anticipates having 3,700 bicycles and more than 300 docking stations by the end of the year.
As of May 2013, the five biggest bike sharing programs, in terms of the number of bicycles owned, were Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis/St. Paul, Minnesota; Boston, Massachusetts; Miami Beach, Florida; and Denver, Colorado. Chicago's program calls for 4,000 bicycles within the next year which would give it the largest number of bikes in a share program in the nation, assuming other cities do not expand in that time frame, but Chicago is expected to be surpassed by New York City. The Big Apple is in the process of initiating a bike share program with plans to incorporate 6,000 bicycles throughout the Manhattan and Brooklyn boroughs.
New York City is known for its bicycle traffic and the share program has been anxiously anticipated for some time due to several delays in its implementation, though it is scheduled to go live in just weeks, about the same time as Chicago. Chicago is in the process of adding significant bicycling attractions including designated bicycle lanes and increased bicycle parking throughout downtown which some think will increase the use and success of the Divvy program.