Over the past few years, third-generation bicycle share programs have increased in popularity across U.S. cities, mimicking a trend started in Europe a decade ago. They are identified as systems that allow people to borrow bikes to get from one location to another without having to return the bicycle to its original location. As the number of people commuting by bicycle has increased in the past decade, adding a bike share system is being seen as a natural next step in public transportation.
Globally, the bike share system is identified through three generations. The first began in Amsterdam in the 1960s as a response to traffic congestion. In this system, there was a fleet of regular bicycles without locks or racks, painted white to be identified with the program. This system was not extremely effective as there were not many bikes and bikes would be stolen or vandalized. However, a few of these systems are still used, usually in smaller communities.
The second generation of bike share, began in Copenhagen, Denmark in the 1990s as a response to a shift in thinking about cities as places to move people rather than cars in expanded roadways. These systems differed from first-generation systems in that they were set up with specific pick-up and return locations. A person would insert the fee into a machine that would release the bike. However, since there was no way of identifying the user, this system was prone to theft and is only used in certain parts of the world.
The third generation of bike share, the one currently gaining popularity globally, uses high tech solutions to account for many of the problems that occurred in previous generations. Higher quality bikes and the ability to connect a specific user with a bicycle has helped minimize vandalism and theft. The addition of electronic racks, chip cards, and smart phone apps has made bike sharing a more reliable, user friendly system.
As of August 2014, there are over 30, third generation bike share systems in the U.S. Not only are bike sharing systems popular, they provide several benefits to the city, community, health, and local environment. Firstly, bike shares reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality by making use of they bicycle attractive. If short trips around the city are made by bike, fewer vehicles are necessary and fewer gases are expelled into the atmosphere. Secondly, bike share systems are an extension of public transportation; they help plug gaps from station-to-station or stop to stop. They also allow riders to view or travel places they might not on visit on foot. Thirdly, it provides exercise to riders who might otherwise choose to travel by car for short trips. Fourthly, bike share systems can also improve the overall perception of bicycling. With increased access to bikes and bike parking, cities have seen an increased number of bicyclists. Lastly, bike shares are good for local economies; they spark new developments and create a positive image of the city. Cities with bike share systems are seen as innovative and at the forefront of people friendly environments.
New Jersey has plans to install a bike share network of its own. While there are a few cities that already have their own programs (Rutgers-New Brunswick, Princeton University, Collingswood, and one planned for Red Bank), Northern New Jersey is working on creating a larger bike share network connecting Jersey City, Hoboken, and Weehawken. The regions plans to have a minimum of 800 bikes and over 100 docking stations. Together North Jersey is preparing to release a study that will be used in developing the bike share in these proposed areas, but the study will also contain recommendations for expansions throughout Hudson County.
Unlike most bike share systems that are publically funded, the Northern New Jersey system plans to be privately funded. Constructed as a private venture, the program does not plan to use tax money because it is to be funded by a private company, like Citi Bike in New York City. The program was originally planned to launch this summer, but has been delayed due to funding issues and is planned to launch in summer 2015. Hoboken launched a trial program in the summer of 2013 that was popular, so officials are still optimistic that the entire network will launch soon.
Though the bike share program connecting Hoboken, Jersey City, and Weehawken has run into some obstacles launching, New Jersey overall has been successful in implementing safe bicycling infrastructure. As of 2009, the NJDOT adopted a Complete Streets policy to promote safe transportation infrastructure for all modes. Since this adoption, NJDOT has worked to gain support in various counties and municipalities. To date, New Jersey has 7 counties and 105 municipalities that have adopted Complete Streets policies. These policies have led to numerous downtown makeovers that have boosted business and pedestrian activity. As the state continues efforts to improve bicycling infrastructure, when the Northern New Jersey bike share does launch, riders will be able to take advantage of numerous bike paths and routes that are creating a safer environment for all forms of transportation.