If you ever wondered (like I have) why there are those little car2go vehicles all over South Minneapolis – this month’s column will give you the answer. It’s called carsharing, or coche compartido en tu barrio in Spanish. According to my research one of the first carsharing programs began in Zürich in 1948. Though it didn’t really become something many people knew about until later on in the 1960s. As of December 2012, “there were an estimated 1.7 million car-sharing members in 27 countries.”
The car2go vehicles are part of the Daimler car company, which is based in London. Their press release describes the program as, “an innovative mobility solution redefining individual transportation in rapidly growing urban areas by offering a network of several hundred environment-friendly smart vehicles for rent.” The North American program first got going in Austin, Texas, back in 2009. As of October 2013, “car2go operates over 9,000 vehicles, which serve eight countries and 25 cities worldwide with over 500,000 customers.”
The whole idea behind this is coming up with solutions to reduce the pollution caused by all the cars everyone owns because these vehicles are very fuel-efficient. Daimler also has all-electric car2go vehicles, though none in Minnesota at this time. Neighborhood carsharing is “often promoted as an alternative to owning a car where public transit, walking, and cycling can be used most of the time and a car is only necessary for out-of-town trips, moving large items, or special occasions.” It would not be practical for commuting to a full-time job on a regular basis. For something like that you could replace your old car with a more fuel-efficient or hybrid one. My neighbor has one that looks so funny because it is so tiny.
Another way to help the environment and get some exercise for your body would be to take part in the bike sharing program from Nice Ride Minnesota. Their program started on June 10, 2010 where “hundreds of people turned out for an inaugural ride down Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis.” They currently have more than a thousand bikes available at over a hundred stations throughout Minneapolis and St. Paul. There’s one at the Midtown Y, for instance. I sure would like to ride a Nice Ride bike, someday.
Nice Ride Minnesota is a non-profit organization that gets public and private funding along with local professionals who “all donate their time to create something great for the Twin Cities.” One of their largest financial supporters is Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota. They also get a lot of help from the National Parks Service.
It’s great that there are so many ride sharing programs going on all over the world. It’s just the kind of thing that more people should know about. If you want to learn more about the organizations and how to take part, go to their websites: car2go (car2go.com/en/Minneapolis) and Nice Ride Minnesota (niceridemn.org). More bikes, less cars is a very good thing for this – and every – neighborhood all over the planet.