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Bike sharing comes to Charlotte

B-Cycles at a station.

Bike sharing, a transportation concept embraced around the world but only slowly making its way to the United States, has come to North Carolina. Charlotte B-Cycle began operating yesterday, with 200 bikes located at 20 stations in Uptown, including several along Charlotte’s Lynx light rail line.
Bike sharing programs offer the use of bikes to people who don’t have them. They’re typically intended to help people run errands or commute to work in urban areas. Bikes are parked at strategically placed stations around town. Participants in in the programs typically pay a usage fee. Generally, you can ride the bikes anywhere (they have GPS tracking), but you must pick them up and leave them at a station. (Lose a bike in the Charlotte system and it will set you back $1,000.) According to Wikipedia, bike sharing programs were operating in 165 cities around the world as of May 2011. France had the most programs, with 29, followed by Spain, 25; and China and Italy, both with 19.
The Charlotte program will allow riders 30 minutes of free use, making it an ideal option for quick trips in Uptown. Each additional 30 minutes is $4.Twenty-four-hour passes are available for $8 — perfect if you’re just visiting for the day — and annual passes, a good option for urban dwellers and downtown workers, are available for $65. Memberships can be purchased online or at the stations.
However, through Sunday the fee is being waived.
Bikes in the Charlotte program as in most bike share programs, are designed for short trips (see photo). All come equipped with baskets, lights and a bell. The bikes, which resemble beach cruisers, have three speeds and are equipped with tires somewhere between a balloon tire and a road tire.
Similar B-Cycle programs are in place in 12 other U.S. cities, including Spartanburg, S.C. An effort is underway to bring bike sharing  to the Triangle.
Charlotte’s B-Cycle program was launched with funding from Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina’s new Get Outside North Carolina! initiative. That program promises to pump $4 million into bike and greenway projects around the state over the next four years. Two other programs in line for GO NC! funding include the two-mile Blue Loop greenway at the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh and the 15-mile Gary Shell Cross-City Trail linking Wilmington with the drawbridge to Wrightsville Beach. According to BCBSNC, every $1 invested in biking trails and walking paths can result in $3 in savings in medical expenses. read more