As gas prices and eco-consciousness grow, more and more people are turning to alternative forms of transportation. Namely, bicycling, which is increasing in popularity around the world. In some areas, cycling is so common that venues are opening to rent bicycles out to tourists and locals alike. Not only will it have a positive impact on your wallet and the air, bike riding is great for your cardiovascular health and keeping you in shape. In these cities in particular, cycling is quickly becoming a regular part of daily life.
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With almost 250 miles of bike routes, separate traffic lights from those for pedestrians or motorists, sheds and parking lots to store bikes when they aren't in use and great deals at rental shops, Amsterdam is the most bike-friendly city in the world. Over 40 percent of all traffic in the city is by way of bicycle. With such a great emphasis on bike safety and convenience, it's easy to see why.
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In 2007, Paris started a system of public bike renting called Velib', which is now the largest public bike renting system of its kind in the world. With 1,200 bike stations across the city, it's created an incredible convenience. Its rates are also very affordable, with the purchase of a subscription the first half hour of every bike trip every day is free. Users can then trade in a bike for another free 30 minutes, or pay an additional fee for the extra time needed with the same bike.
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With a growing number of bike routes, in the form of separate lanes on main roads and a number of off-the-beaten path trails, Portland is creating a bike culture for all types of riders. What's more, the city's Create-a-Commuter, the first program of its kind in the United States, gives bikes to low-income adults so that they are able to commute to work. Included in this program are bike safety courses that ensure all riders are well informed and able to make their trips.
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One of the more unique bike rental systems is Germany's Call a Bike program available in Berlin and a few other cities. Users call the number on the bike and are given a a code to unlock it. Then when they are done using it, they lock it up and hit a return button on the bike's touch screen. There is also an option for temporarily locking the bike without having to return it. Add in the facts that Berlin is a fairly flat city with a number of bike lanes, and that half of the population doesn't own their own car, and you have a city prime for bike riding.
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San Francisco, Calif.
In San Francisco, a city well-known for their green initiatives, the transportation authority puts pedestrian and cycling needs first. With public transit capable of carrying bikes, special traffic signals and over 60 miles of bike lanes, about 40,000 residents of the city use bicycles for their regular commute.
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Barcelona also has an extensive public transportation system involving bicycles, where in the rider can rent a bike from one of over 100 stations and return at any of the others. The city also holds Bike Weeks and Car Free Days to discourage people's dependence on cars and buses and educate them on bike safety.
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With a conscious effort to increase bike use in the city, Boston is becoming a great spot for cyclists. The city has over 50 miles of bike paths, thousands of bike-only parking areas, the support and encouragement of city programs and plans for expansion are still underway. For a city known for its often confusing roadways and frustrating driving situations, an increase in cycling population could mean improvements for commuters of all kinds.
What seems rather puzzling that cycling would be so common in these areas is that aside from Barcelona, which has a Mediterranean climate of warm summers and mild winters, and San Fransisco, which is rainy for half the year and usually quite dry in the summer, these cities are not known for having consistently good weather. Yet the benefits of biking seem to outweigh any weather downsides. While poor weather conditions will certainly deter part of the cycling population on bad days, this mode of transportation still thrives despite the climate.
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