Despite some financial and legal challenges, bike-sharing programs are rolling out in cities throughout North America.
Locals and visitors in Minneapolis, New York, Washington and about 30 other North American cities can now buy daily, weekly or annual program memberships and/or pay hourly fees to check out a bike to ride around town.
Cities such as Tampa; San Diego; Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia, will soon be launching programs.
Seattle is the latest city to announce that it is joining the bike-share bandwagon, with a start date in September for Pronto Emerald City Cycle Share, which will kick off with 50 docking stations around town for 500 blue and green bikes.
As in other cities, grants, private sponsorships and user fees will make the bike-share program possible. But with a contribution of $2.5 million from Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, the Emerald City is the first to have its bike-share program sponsored by an airline.
"We're excited to help residents and visitors get out and explore," said Joe Sprague, the airline's vice president of marketing. "Our investment in this program is an investment in our community."
It may seem odd that a traditionally fuel-guzzling form of transportation is supporting a very green one, but Alaska Airlines has a strong sustainability program.
"Biking in a city puts smiles on people's faces, and airlines want to be associated with people having fun while traveling," said Andy Clarke, president of the Washington, D.C.-based League of American Bicyclists.
That fun has bubbled over to political and policy decisions in other cities.