When I think about graduating in two years and moving back home to San Jose, California, I think about how much I’ll miss being able to walk everywhere in Boston and using such convenient public transportation. Last week, however, I heard some very exciting news about a bike sharing program coming to my hometown!

Next year, the San Francisco Bay Area will be launching the country’s first regional bike sharing program! It’s intended to get drivers out of their cars and onto bikes—improving the quality of our health and air as well as decreasing our environmental impact.

The program sounds relatively easy so far. Users would register at a station or ahead of time online for a bike share account. They would unlock any of the program’s bikes with a credit card or pre-paid smart card, and ride it to any station within the network. San Francisco will start off with 500 bikes – gradually increasing to 2,750 – and 50 stations around Market Street. Within two years, thousands of bikes will be available at Caltrain stations in San Jose, Redwood City, Mountain View, and Palo Alto.

When it comes to billing, users will be charged by how long they check out the bike—unless the trip is less than half an hour, in which case the trip would be totally free of charge. For tourists or out-of-town people like me, the program accommodates those of us that would like to use the bikes for just a day or two.

We’ll have to wait until next year to see how well it works, but other places that have a bike-share program have already seen major success. Paris’s bike-sharing program, Vélib, generated more than 25 million bike trips in its first year. In Montreal, the one-year old program called Bixi has already counted three million trips (they reached two million trips just two months ago!). Gina of Autonomie Project actually travelled to Montreal over the summer, and she easily found that Bixi was the ultimate way to get around. “I found it more affordable than renting a car and far more convenient, as well as a great way to see the city,” she said.

The success of these bike share programs makes me hopeful for the one in San Francisco. Although I always enjoy visiting the city, I really dread driving and parking. Not including gas, a trip easily costs me an extra $20 in parking garage and meter expenses – and there was even this one time when I got a parking ticket.

Once this bike share program launches, I definitely plan on trying it out. It’ll save me money, give me some outdoor fun, save me from a headache, and help the environment.

-Michelle Thai

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