Green travel isn’t just about buying carbon offsets and choosing resorts that serve local, organic fare, it’s about crafting an itinerary that’s built around more sustainable options. That’s especially true when it comes to transportation. Buzzing around a city and racking up cab fare certainly isn’t the most environmentally friendly option, but it also doesn’t allow you the ability to truly explore a place.
Conscious travel is about respecting the places that you’re venturing, and that means taking the time to truly enjoy them. That doesn’t mean you need to commit to three-week long stints in an Italian villa a la Slow Travel, but thinking about how you can better connect with a place on your next extended weekend is a great place to start. And what better way to explore a place than by bike?
Plenty of cosmopolitan cities offer excellent bike share programs, and with them, the opportunity to get to know a city just like a local while at the same time opting for a smarter, more sustainable method of travel.
Here’s a short list of cities with great bike share programs to get you started:
The French Canadian metropolis is home to the much loved Bixi, a cutting-edge bike share system that incorporates a bunch of cool technologies including solar power and wifi-enabled stations. You can get everything from a 24-hour to a year-long pass, and the Bixi website helps you easily navigate between the many stations located around the city.
Maybe the most well-known of bike share systems, Vélib has been putting cyclists on the streets of Paris since 2007. And let’s be honest, what’s more French than a leisurely bike ride along the Seine with a baguette and round of Camembert in your basket all set for an afternoon picnic?
A couple of years ago, the U.S. capital unveiled the country’s first fully automated touch-and-go rental program. SmartBike DC has been so popular that now the city is planning to expand, replacing the program with a bigger and better version based on Montreal’s Bixi system. The new system will have 1,100 bikes at 114 different stations.
The ultimate of cycling capitals, it’s no surprise that Copenhagen offers up its city bikes practically for free. Through the ByCyklen program you can get a bike for a mere 20 DKK deposit, approximately $3.30. The city has 2,000 bikes and 110 city bike racks, meaning you can pretty much explore just about any part of this Scandinavian capital on two wheels.
Melbourne just recently launched its bike-share program, and so far so good for the Australian city. A daily subscription will only cost you $2.50 (plus a little extra depending on how long you use the bike), and if you’re unsure of your cycling skills, you can even take brush up course offered specifically for bike share riders by the local program Bikes@Work. In conjunction with the program’s launch, a third party site, bikeshare.tel, was also set up, letting you identify station locations from your mobile phone.
European capitals aren’t the only ones boasting bike share programs. In Taipei you can take advantage of U-Bike, which rolled out in 2009.
Big on bike sharing? Check out the Bike-sharing Blog which has a wealth of content and information on cities around the world that are incorporating programs like these.
Happy travels and safe riding!
Images: solylunafamilia, LWY, M. V. Jantzen, umebike, jon_lin, davidreid