Cities to Test Bike Sharing at National Conventions

Humana Inc. of Louisville, Ky., announced on May 15 a bike-sharing program to supply bicycles to progressive cities.

Freewheelin, in which Humana partners with the not-for-profit organization Bikes Belong, is an environmentally friendly alternative to automobiles that encourages riders to keep fit.

"As a health benefits company, we are honored to have a role in introducing Americans to bike- sharing, a concept which has long been popular overseas and has proven that individuals can easily integrate healthy living and environmental conservation into their lives," said Jonathon Lord, M.D., Humana's chief innovation officer. "The potential for this program is tremendous, as it provides answers to some of the most difficult public health problems facing our nation -- how to improve personal and environmental health while at the same time reducing costs. In addition to helping your health and the environment, bike sharing can help your wallet as well, especially in a time of rising gas prices."

Minneapolis/St. Paul and Denver will be among the first in the country to implement the Freewheelin program.

The program partners will bring nearly 1,000 bikes to Denver during the Democratic National Convention in August and to the Twin Cities during the Republican National Convention in September. The bikes can be used free of charge by anyone looking for an alternative to automobiles while the convention is in town.

Seventy of the 1,000 bikes and the check-out kiosks will remain after each convention and donated to the cities as part of an ongoing program to support carbon emission reduction and healthy active lifestyles. The program will establish a lasting legacy and a start to a permanent bike-sharing system in these cities.

The legacy program will feature Freewheelin bike racks set up at various points around the cities, each housing a collection of the program's proprietary bikes, which are equipped with trip computers. A solar powered kiosk, through which participants can "check out" a bike to use for things such as riding to work or doing errands, or simply taking a leisurely spin, will accompany each bike rack.

Once users are finished, they simply return the bike to any Freewheelin rack in their respective city. Participants can register for the program on the Freewheelin Web site and use the site to automatically track their mileage, their personal carbon offset, and other health information. Riders simply use a credit card or a Freewheelin key fob to check the bike out at no charge during the conventions.

Humana piloted the program in Louisville, Ky., in 2008 by installing bikes and racks for use by employees free of charge. More than 2,500 employees registered for the program.

"This is an exceptional opportunity to show how well bicycling works for short trips in big cities," said Tim Blumenthal, Executive Director of Bikes Belong. "Considering that 41 percent of all trips in automobiles are two miles or less, bikes are an ideal alternative."

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