For those of you who have visited Paris, Copenhagen or D.C. and have been enamored of their bike sharing programs, you'll probably be excited to hear that Seattle is beginning a similar program of our own.
What's a bike share? Basically, bike sharing features automated, self-serve bicycle rental stations. The high-tech, utilitarian bikes are intended for short trips where people check out a bike from a kiosk and then return it either to that location or another near their destination. If the first 30 minutes are free, like in Paris, and if the bike stations are spaced decently, you could potentially ride from station to station and never pay for the bike :)
These bikes are equipped with GPS so they can be found if "misplaced" from the rental station. You also need a credit card to check out a bike and it has special sensors on it to make sure the tires are inflated properly before you can remove it from the station. So, even though the theft of bikes might be an issue in other areas that have these programs, I suspect that unless a renter has a pocketful of stolen credit cards, it's unlikely they'll be stealing these bikes. The only downside to this much technology is that the bikes aren't exactly light. And this can be a big problem here in hilly Seattle.
Finally, with Paris eyeballing a car-sharing program, Autolib', with a fleet of 4,000 electric cars, could something similar hit the states in the near future?
I wish. Le sigh.
I think I would still be more apt to rely on public transportation rather than the bikes, mostly because I'm a complete wimp about riding in dense traffic. Riding a bike in a bike-friendly European city is one thing. Riding it in crazy traffic with no bike lanes is another.