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Bike-Sharing Gets Smart

A new high-tech program for multi-user bicycles could be offered as a solution to high gas prices and environmental issues

Timothy Devine for TIME

1. Use a card to unlock a SmartBike in Washington.
2. Remove assigned bike from rack; adjust seat.
3. Return to a SmartBike rack within 3 hours.

The pedal pushers are wising up. In the mid-1990s, when public bike-sharing programs were heralded as a way to curb parking shortages as well as greenhouse-gas emissions, dozens of U.S. cities decided to give them a shot. Nonprofits in places like Boulder, Colo.; Charlottesville, Va.; and Gainesville, Fla., launched fleets of communal bikes that people could borrow for free and leave around town for the next rider to happen upon. No locks, no deposits and, pretty soon, no bikes. Theft and vandalism quickly wiped out many of these freewheeling initiatives. This month, however, Washington is rolling out America's first high-tech bike-sharing...

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