So, right off the bat, if you don’t know what a bike-share is, it’s a program in which many bicycle stations are set up and people can rent a bike to use for a certain time frame and return it at a different station. It’s seen in many cities where cycling infrastructure is growing and is considered an extremely important part of making cycling more accessible to people.
As cycling becomes more and more welcomed as a dominant method of inner-city travel in the first world, we’re going to see more and more of these bike shares, as well as seeing the existing ones expand (hopefully they’ll be expanding my local bike share—there never seems to be a bike available when I need it).
These days, everyone knows Europe is basically the king when it comes to cycling infrastructure, so logically one would assume all the best bike share programs must also be in Europe. While many of them are, the rest of the world has also been stepping their cycling game up in recent decades. Below you’ll find a list of the world’s eight best bike share programs by city. If you’re expecting Europe to dominate this list, then #1 might come as a shock to you.
1. Hangzhou, China
The city of Hangzhou, with a population of around seven million, boasts the world’s largest bike share program. In fact, no other bike share on Earth touches the sheer numbers they have. Let’s take a tally. There are somewhere between 66,500 and 78,000 bicycles in their program, scattered across around 2,700 stations.
There are so many city bikes that, in the downtown of the city, you can’t go five minutes without seeing one. But it gets better; the program is so successful that the local government has invested money to allow the Hangzhou Public Transport Corporation to expand. The invested amount is roughly the equivalent of 18.5 million UK pounds.
Because of the investment, the company has predicted that they will be operating with 175,000 bikes by 2020. Considering the program only started in 2008, I’d consider that some explosive expansion.
Despite the program’s insane success, there has been some minor controversy surrounding it; in 2010 an app was created which told users how many bikes were available at every station. While hailed among users as a real life-saver, Hangzhou Public Bicycle’s staff were not impressed. They claimed the data was taken illegally by the developers and in 2012 they blocked Zhang Guangyu, the developers, from accessing the information, rendering the app useless.
2. Taiyuan, China
Europe may be the main innovators when it comes to cycling infrastructure, but in terms of sheer volume and reach, China’s leading the way. I suppose it’s not really fair, since China’s population is nearly double the entire population of Europe, but Taiyuan is worth mentioning for its position as the current runner up to Hangzhou.
Part of the reason Taiyuan’s bike share belongs on this list is the fact that it’s expanded so much in so little time. In fact, it’s expanded so rapidly that nobody actually knows how many bikes are in their circulation, with estimates ranging from 20,000 to an impressive 41,000 and around 1,000 stations. And it is still growing.
And it’s pretty easy to understand why too; it’s simple to use the bikes and it’s cheap. In fact, it’s free as long as you use the bike for under an hour.
3. Paris, France
When people call it the city of love, I don’t think a love of bicycles is what they have in mind. However, Paris earns the number three spot on this list because of how awesome their bike share program is. It’s not surprising that Paris has such a high spot here; France is one of the hearts of the international cycling community and is a major player in cycling history.
The bike sharing program, called Vélib’, is the largest bike share outside of China, with around 20,000 bikes and more than 1,200 stations in their fleet. Bertrand Delanoë, who served as the mayor of Paris from 2001 to 2014, championed the creation of the bike share, which first debuted in July, 2007.
The program is wildly successful and has set a great example for the rest of the world to follow. In 2011, its daily ridership was roughly 86,000 people and that number has only grown since then. Vélib’ is often the program other cities point to when they attempt to sell the idea of a bike share in their municipality.
Vélib’ is not without its problems however. There is a rampant problem with theft and vandalism. Many bikes are discarded, stripped for parts and/or abandoned in a state of disrepair. Many are stolen and sold elsewhere, with some of the bikes turning up in places as far away as Romania. The costs associated with the theft and vandalism were actually so much higher than originally projected that the program ended up losing money in its first three years in operation.
Despite that, the program has balanced itself out and is now considered a huge success. Delanoë himself considers it one of the biggest triumphs of his political career.
4. Shanghai, China
China is just dominating this list. We’re at number four and China’s been mentioned three times already. Shanghai’s wildly successful bike share program is brought to you by Forever Bike, who supply the city with its iconic (and aesthetically pleasing) orange bikes. The bike share has over 19,000 bikes in service and roughly 600 different stations in use.
The bike share program is very popular among tourists. The system might be a little hard to understand for those who are unfamiliar with how bike shares works, but there are plenty of guides on how to rent one of the Forever Bikes, like this one from Time Out Shanghai.
Shanghai’s bike share benefits from the city’s modern infrastructure and massive population looking to avoid traffic. Like Beijing, part of the success of the bike share comes from the sheer volume of people living in the city. Shanghai has the highest population in the country with the most people on Earth. There is a high demand for bicycles there. Could you imagine if everyone in Shanghai drove a car? And you thought New York had bad traffic.
Like most bike share programs, Shanghai’s comes from a co-operative effort between business and government. Like all bike shares, there are a few downsides to Forever Bike’s orange fleet, but ultimately the program has been profitable and successful.
5. London, England
London’s bike share program started in 2010 and has grown enough to make this list. The London system used Vélib’ as a model, with Serco and the municipal government working together on the project to bring London’s bike share program to life. The program started with only 5,000 Barclays bikes, but now they have over 11,000 bikes (sometimes affectionately named “Boris Bikes” after London mayor Boris Johnson) and are just shy of 750 stations.
The bike share has gotten all kinds of praise for its effectiveness and safety. For reasons that are not entirely clear, cyclists are significantly less likely to be injured while riding one of the Barclays, as opposed to an ordinary bike. The Road Danger Reduction Forum speculates that the reason might be attributed to motorists taking particular care to avoid accidents with these bikes.
In fact, there has only been one city bike rider to be killed while riding and their death sparked a major push towards expanding London’s cycling infrastructure.
The bike share has been the subject of some controversy, however. Critics complained about the numerous start-up glitches that occurred and declared that the service was lacking. They pointed to many flaws with how the service functioned on a fundamental level, including things like how the bikes were required to be docked at a station relatively close to where they were taken from, negating one of the most valuable benefits to cycling in the city and brought up the fact that the original fleet of bikes were rather heavy and cumbersome, making them inconvenient.
Still, Serco addressed these concerns and upgraded their service and their fleet. There are still many critics, but London residents have noticed a vast improvement in the quality of the bikes and the service itself, since its original debut in 2010.
6. New York City, U.S.
New York City was one of the first places in the U.S. to adapt a bike share program on a large scale. While their fleet, numbering at around 6,000 bikes and 330 stations, is nowhere near the size seen in Paris and many Chinese cities, the Citi Bikes have certainly earned their spot on this list for a number of reasons. For starters, it is the largest bike share in the U.S., even though it only started in 2013. There are expansion plans in place, designed to double the number of bikes on the street by 2017, officially making it bigger than London’s bike share.
Modeled after Montreal’s Bixi (which has claimed the number eight spot on this list), the Citi Bikes are efficient and well-received, with many New Yorkers happily welcoming the program. The Citi Bikes are praised for helping alleviate New York’s rampant traffic problems that have been the butt of jokes all around the world (though, in reality, as a frequent visitor to NYC, these days traffic isn’t that bad, as long as you avoid traveling at rush hour).
The Citi Bikes originally began without any subsidy from the municipal government, which is extremely rare for bike share programs. Most programs are a joint effort from local business sponsors and the government. Capitalists and fiscal conservatives have pointed to this as the reason for the Citi Bike’s impeccable quality and maintenance.
Like Paris however, the Citi Bikes have suffered all kinds of problems with vandalism and theft. Critics have also complained that, compared to other bike shares around the world, the Citi Bikes are expensive to use.
7. Barcelona, Spain
Ah, Barcelona. What a beautiful city. And just like how Barcelona is one of the best looking cities in Europe, their bike share bikes also have one of the most stylish designs we’ve seen on this list. Putting that aside however, Bicing, the Barcelona bike share program, didn’t earn a spot on this list for simply looking good.
Modeled after the Paris bike share, Bicing is designed to encourage cycling as a viable means of travel. Part of the reason for Bicing’s popularity is people’s growing concern with the environment. Praised as a powerful initiative to cut down on greenhouse gasses, Bicing has been well-received.
Critics, however, have blasted Bicing for being inaccessible. Indeed, the system is deliberately designed to be prevent tourists from using the bikes. While some feel this protects the Bicing bikes from the rampant vandalism problem that other bike shares face, it raises an important question about whether or not these bike shares should be accessible to as many people as possible or be members-only.
With that being said, Bicing has definitely proven itself as one of the best bike share programs in the world.
8. Montreal, Canada
If you love art, French-Canadian culture and the winter, Montreal is the city for you. But there’s another thing Montreal is known for; cyclists. That’s right, as soon as the snow is cleared, the bikes come out and usually stay out right up until the roads turn into an icy wonderland that puts Disney’s Frozen to shame. But I digress. Montreal, as of Canada’s major bike-friendly cities, naturally decided to fund their own bike sharing system, called Bixi.
Bixi is one of the most well designed and effective bike shares in the world. It’s up there with Vélib’ and Hangzhou’s bike share. It’s so good that many cities in the west have modeled their own bike shares after Bixi, including NYC.
I’m sure you’ve already guessed, but the Bixi bikes have suffered all kinds of troubles with vandalism and theft, like most bike shares (as an aside—what kind of jerk vandalizes a bike? That’s low).
The bike share consists of around 5,200 bikes and 460 stations. Despite seeming small in comparison to other bike shares on this list, Bixi’s annual ridership is more than 3 million, meaning Montreal’s cyclists are definitely getting their money’s worth out of the system.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Mark Hertsgaard
What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.
Will the White House Turn Green?<p>Whether the White House changes hands is the most important climate question of the 2020 elections. President Donald Trump rejects climate science, is withdrawing the United States from the Paris Agreement, and has accelerated fossil fuel development. His climate policy seems to be, as he tweeted in January when rejecting a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers proposal to protect New York City from storm surges, "Get your mops and buckets ready."</p><p>Joe Biden, who started the 2020 campaign with a climate position so weak that activists gave it an "F," called Trump a "climate arsonist" during California's recent wildfires. Biden backs a $2 trillion plan to create millions of jobs while slashing emissions—a Green New Deal in all but name. Equally striking, his running mate, California Senator Kamala Harris, has endorsed phasing out fossil fuel production—a politically explosive scientific imperative.</p><p>The race will be decided in a handful of battleground states, five of which already face grave climate dangers: Florida (hurricanes and sea-level rise), North Carolina (ditto), Texas (storms and drought), Michigan (floods), and Arizona (heat waves and drought). <a href="https://climatecommunication.yale.edu/visualizations-data/ycom-us/" target="_blank">Public concern is rising</a> in these states, but will that concern translate into votes?</p>
Will Democrats Flip the Senate, and by Enough to Pass a Green New Deal?<p>With Democrats all but certain to maintain their majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Senate will determine whether a potential Biden administration can actually deliver climate progress. Democrats need to pick up three seats to flip the Senate if Biden wins, four if he doesn't. But since aggressive climate policy is shunned by some Democrats, notably Joe Manchin of coal-dependent West Virginia, Democrats probably need to gain five or six Senate seats to pass a Green New Deal.</p><p>Environmentalists, including the League of Conservation Voters, are targeting six Republicans who polls suggest are vulnerable.</p><ul><li>Steve Daines of Montana, who denies climate science</li><li>Martha McSally of Arizona</li><li>Thom Tillis of North Carolina</li><li>Susan Collins of Maine</li><li>Joni Ernst of Iowa (bankrolled by Charles Koch)</li><li>John James of Michigan (also a Koch beneficiary)</li></ul><p>Republican Senators are even at risk in conservative Kansas and Alaska. In both states, the Democratic candidates are physicians—not a bad credential amid a pandemic—who support climate action. In Kansas, Barbara Bollier faces an incumbent funded by Charles Koch. In Alaska, Al Gross urges a transition away from oil, though his openness to limited drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve dims his appeal to green groups. He faces incumbent Republican Dan Sullivan, who receives an 8 percent lifetime voting record from the League of Conservation Voters.</p>
Will Local and State Races Advance Climate Progress?<h4>THE CLIMATE HAWKS</h4><p>Under Democratic and Republican leadership alike, Washington has long been a graveyard for strong climate action. But governors can boost or block renewable energy; the Vermont and New Hampshire races are worth watching. Attorneys general can sue fossil fuel companies for lying about climate change; climate hawks are running for the top law enforcement seats in Montana and North Carolina. State legislatures can accelerate or delay climate progress, as the new Democratic majorities in Virginia have shown. Here, races to watch include Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Colorado.</p><h4>THE CLIMATE POLICY MAKERS</h4><p>Perhaps the most powerful, and most overlooked, climate policy makers are public utility commissions. They control whether pipelines and other energy infrastructure gets built; they regulate whether electric utilities expand solar and energy efficiency or stick with the carbon-heavy status quo. Regulatory capture and outright corruption are not uncommon.</p><p>A prime example is Arizona, where a former two-term commissioner known as the godfather of solar in the state is seeking a comeback. Bill Mundell argues that since Arizona law permits utilities to contribute to commissioners' electoral campaigns, the companies can buy their own regulators. Which may explain why super-sunny Arizona has so little installed solar capacity.</p><p>In South Dakota, Remi Bald Eagle, a Native American U.S. Army veteran, seeks a seat on the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission, which rules on the Standing Rock oil pipeline. And in what <em>HuffPost</em> called "the most important environmental race in the country," Democrat Chrysta Castaneda, who favors phasing out oil production, is running for the Texas Railroad Commission, which despite its name decides what oil, gas, and electric companies in America's leading petro-state can build.</p>
Will the Influencers Usher in a Green New Era?<h4>THE UNCOUNTED</h4><p>The story that goes largely under-reported in every U.S. election is how few Americans vote. In 2016, some 90 million, <a href="https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/08/09/an-examination-of-the-2016-electorate-based-on-validated-voters/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">roughly four out of every 10 eligible voters</a>, did not cast a ballot. Attorney Nathaniel Stinnett claims that 10 million of these nonvoters nevertheless identify as environmentalists: They support green policies, even donate to activist groups; they just don't vote. Stinnett's <a href="https://www.environmentalvoter.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Environmental Voter Project</a> works to awaken this sleeping giant.</p><h4>THE SUNRISE MOVEMENT</h4><p>Meanwhile, the young climate activists of the <a href="http://www.sunrisemovement.org/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Sunrise Movement</a> are already winning elections with an unabashedly Green New Deal message. More than any other group, Sunrise pushed the Green New Deal into the national political conversation, helping Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Ed Markey draft the eponymous congressional resolution. In 2020, Sunrise has helped Green New Deal champions defeat centrists in Democratic primaries, with Markey dealing Representative Joe Kennedy Jr. the first defeat a Kennedy has ever suffered in a Massachusetts election. But can Sunrise also be successful against Republicans in the general elections this fall?</p><h4>THE STARPOWER</h4><p>And an intriguing wild card: celebrity firepower, grassroots activism, and big-bucks marketing have converged behind a campaign to get Latina mothers to vote climate in 2020. Latinos have long been the U.S. demographic most concerned about climate change. Now, <a href="https://votelikeamadre.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Vote Like A Madre</a> aims to get 5 million Latina mothers in Florida, Texas, and Arizona to the polls. Jennifer Lopez, Salma Hayak, and Lin-Manuel Miranda are urging mothers to make a "pinky promise" to vote for their kids' climate future in November. Turning out even a quarter of those 5 million voters, though no easy task, could swing the results in three states Trump must win to remain president, which brings us back to the first category, "Will the White House Turn Green?"</p>
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By Tony Carnie
South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.
Vincent van der Merwe at a cheetah translocation. Endangered Wildlife Trust
Under Pressure<p>Cheetah populations elsewhere in Southern Africa have not prospered over the past 50 years. In Zimbabwe, cheetah numbers have crashed from 1,500 in 1975, to just 170 today. Botswana's cheetah population has held steady at around 1,500 over the same period, but illegal capture for captive breeding and conflicts with farmers and the growing human population are increasing. In Namibia, there were an estimated 3,000 cheetah in in 1975; roughly 1,400 remain today.</p><p>In contrast, South Africa's cheetah numbers have grown from about 500 in 1975 to nearly 1,300 today. Van der Merwe, who is also a Ph.D. student at the University of Cape Town's Institute for Communities and Wildlife in Africa (iCWild), says he's confident that South Africa will soon overtake Namibia and Botswana, largely because the majority of South African cheetahs are protected and managed behind fences, whereas most of the animals in the neighboring countries remain more vulnerable on mainly unfenced lands.</p><p>Wildlife researchers Florian Weise and colleagues have reported that private stock owners in Namibia still trap cheetahs mainly for translocation, but there are few public or private reserves large enough to contain them. Weise says that conservation efforts need to focus on improving tolerance toward cheetahs in commercial livestock and game farming areas to reduce indiscriminate trapping.</p><p>Van der Merwe says fences can be both a blessing and a curse. While these barriers prevent cheetahs and other wild animals from migrating naturally to breed and feed, they also protect cheetahs from the growing tide of threats from humanity and agriculture.</p><p>To simulate natural dispersion patterns that guard against inbreeding, the trust helps landowners swap their animals with other cheetah reserves elsewhere in the country. The South African metapopulation project has been so successful in boosting numbers that the trust is having to look beyond national boundaries to secure new translocation areas in Malawi, Zambia and Mozambique.</p><p>Cheetah translocations have been going on in South Africa since the mid-1960s, when the first unsuccessful attempts were made to move scores of these animals from Namibia. These relocations were mostly unsuccessful.</p>
Charli de Vos uses a VHF antenna to locate cheetahs in Phinda Game Reserve. Tony Carnie for Mongabay
Swinging for the Fences<p>But other wildlife conservation leaders have a different perspective on cheetah conservation strategy.</p><p>Gus Mills, a senior carnivore researcher retired in 2006 from SANParks, the agency that manages South Africa's national parks, after a career of more than 30 years in Kalahari and Kruger national parks. He says the focus should be on quality of living spaces rather than the quantity of cheetahs.</p><p>Mills, who was the founder of the Endangered Wildlife Trust's Carnivore Conservation Group in 1995, and who also spent six years after retirement studying cheetahs in the Kalahari, says it's more important to properly protect and, where possible, expand the size of existing protected areas.</p><p>He also advocates a triage approach to cheetah conservation, in which scarce funds and resources are focused on protecting cheetahs in formally protected areas, rather than diluting scarce resources in an attempt to try and save every single remaining cheetah population.</p><p>"People have an obsession with numbers. But I believe that it is more important to protect large landscape and habitats properly," Mills said.</p><p>He suggests that cheetahs enclosed within small reserves live in artificial conditions: "It's almost like glorified farming."</p><p>"In the long run we have to focus on consolidating formally protected areas," he added. "Africa's human population will double by 2050, so cheetah populations in unfenced areas will become unsustainable if they are eating people's livestock."</p>
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