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Bike Share While Traveling

Bike sharing can be an excellent opportunity for visitors to see a city in a new way without the cost and commitment of a long-term bike rental. From Los Angeles to Paris, I've come to see that cities around the world are rapidly creating their own bike sharing programs to give residents and tourists a convenient, inexpensive and environmentally friendly way to travel. While I surely enjoy taking two wheels to get to know a new city, bike sharing has become one of my favorite uses of local transit because of the accessibility, convenience, and affordability.

Every winter, my partner and I snow bird our way out of New York to warmer climates. We usually bring our own bikes or rent them but this year we decided to travel light to the West Coast. With all the logistics of traveling with a bike, I needed to take out certain factors because of the amount of time preparing stuff we were bringing (dog especially). Instead of bringing my own bike, I researched rentals, Spinlister, and even checked out Craigslist for a bike. Our goal this year was to live in a city for 3 months with minimal car travel so finding a bike was key. When I researched bike share in Santa Monica, my answer was right in from of me.

Like many of of the other bike share programs I have experienced in Paris, London, and New York, Santa Monica's Breeze Bikes made signing up simple and convenient. If you are thinking of a winter-escape-by-bike to warmer climates, here are some tips on using a bike share program while you travel.

Research
If you are planning a holiday in a city and want to get around by bike, do some research. Know local laws around helmet use, hand signals, carrying bikes in subways etc. Laws will be different from state to state and country to country. Check out maps for safe cycling paths and be sure to obey traffic laws. If a city has a bike share program, it's very likely they will have signs, bike paths, and maps for your use.

Sign Up
Most bike share programs allow you to sign up easily online to pay with a credit card. Memberships range from hours, daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly, making it convenient for travelers to pay for only what they want. Most programs I've used set up a code for you to lock and unlock your bike, making it extra easy for a user to just grab a bike and go.

Download Bike Share App
Several cities in the United States have gotten on the bike sharing wagon and launched sharing apps of their own which feature set up accounting, stations, greenways, and safe bike routes to a station near a destination. Most apps also feature reservation options for a bike and give you a count for how many bikes are at your nearest station (a feature I appreciate as I've had to make searches without apps before).

Ride
One of my favorite features about sharing programs is the effortlessness of using a bike. Bike sharing, I found, is much more affordable and takes out the extra responsibility of maintenance, safety, and extra gear (lights, ulocks). Bikes are generally well maintained, have built in lights, and if you're making a quick stop, they usually lock in place for you to make a quick errand run. They also come with bike baskets to hold items while you ride around.

Shop
Speaking of carry items in a bike basket... while cities are encouraging two wheel transit, local businesses are encouraged to put out bike racks and offer discounts to those who bike and shop. Many bike sharing programs make it easy to find stations near shopping centers or grocery stores to hop on and off while you run errands.

Repeat
If you're new to a city, you may want to take a bike tour around to get to know it with someone who has experience riding through it. While walking may be a great way to know a new place, you can see so much more in a shorter amount of time by bike. Once you get hang of the flow of a city, you'll be ready to conquer each holiday by bike sharing.

If you want to be in a city that is accessible by bike, be sure to consider it's bike friendliness. The efforts cities have taken on to building greenways, bike lanes, and park trails have provided safe places for cyclists and a well established bike culture. While cities are aiming to be more bike friendly and greener, it will make city travel easier for locals and tourist, this is something to definitely plan your next holiday over.

image courtesy: serenagrace

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