Bike share programs are springing up all over the world. For an idea of how they work, a system in the bustling, northern Italian city of Milan provides a good example.
There’s no confusing a colorful bike share bike, which is clearly marked with municipality and conspicuous I.D. number (an effective theft-deterrent).
Bike stations are conveniently located around the city.
Kiosks contain a screen and keypad where you enter a password created when booking online. Sliding your credit card, your bike space number appears on the screen.
Automatically unlocked, the bike easily lifts off the rack.
Bikes are tough and sturdy, yet easy to steer. The ride is remarkably comfortable, even over bumps. Having only three to choose from takes the guesswork out of shifting gears.
No need for special cycling clothes. People in this fashion capital wear just about anything when they ride, including business suits and high heels. You can’t exert yourself too much or go too fast amid the traffic lights and other forms of transportation. Helmets don’t come with the rental and aren’t typically worn.
Best of all – the cost is only a few euros for a two-hour period – and the first half hour is free!
I give the Milan system an A-, due to some very minor quibbles. The heavy bikes develop so much momentum they’re somewhat tough to brake. While having a bungee is helpful, the metal bike basket is slippery and heavy objects are hard to secure. My husband’s new SLR camera slipped out and broke at our first sight-seeing stop. We’ll stow our stuff in a bag next time. Booking the bike was somewhat cumbersome because the system did not allow multiple bookings at one time, nor did it retain information from prior bookings.
But, all in all, bike share is a cheap and enjoyable alternative to taxis, a good bridge between different types of transport, and a great way to burn off the fantastic pasta and frequent gelato stops.