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Bike rental website helps travellers find options

Renting a car is one way to see a new city, but for a real close-up — and a little exercise — how about renting a bike?

Renting a car is one way to see a new city, but for a real close-up — and a little exercise — how about renting a bike?

A website launched earlier this year, rentabikenow.com, helps travellers find two-wheeled transportation in 168 cities in the United States and Canada. It works with 200 bike stores — and counting, putting site users directly in touch with the rental inventory at independent bicycle stores large and small.

Users select the city where they’re headed, and receive a list of available bikes from cruisers to mountain bikes. Some bike stores offer tandem and recumbent bikes, too.

It can be hard to find a bicycle to rent when you’re going on a trip. Not all bike stores rent bikes, and hours, bicycle styles, and rental rates differ widely.

That is the need www.rentabikenow.com is aiming to address. It also collects surveys from every user to rate the stores and their service.

To rent a bicycle on www.rentabikenow.com, users pay a $5-$8 US fee, make a deposit, and then pay the balance when they pick up and use the bike.

The site also provides some mapping and route advice. And the bike listings show a photo of the bike users are reserving online, plus store shop hours.

All the bike stores must offer helmets, some rented, some free.

The cost of renting the bike itself usually runs about $40, said George Gill, the site’s Chicago-based president and founder. Gill has seen rental charges that range from $15 to $100.

That means bike rental isn’t always much more economical than renting a car.

But rolling down the street on two wheels instead of four is healthier, easier on the environment, and it’s fun, noted Gill, 45, who himself rides about 6,400 kilometres a year for health and relaxation.

“It goes back to that fundamental sense of freedom,” he said. “You’re truly in touch with the world around you, whether that be nature or the local people in the town you’re visiting.”

Rentabikenow.com, launched in April, has agreements with 200 bicycle stores in 40 states, and Gill is hard at work looking for more.

The site has 20 rental locations in California, and 11 in Florida.

Renting a bike makes sense if you don’t have the time or ability to ship your own bike where you’re going, said Winona Sorenson at Adventure Cycling Association, a 44,000-member group aimed at inspiring people to travel on two wheels.

“For me, it’s a fantastic way to see a city up close,” Sorenson, media director of the Montana-based association, said of biking. “I get to spend time outside.”

And if you travel by bike, you’ll never have to hunt for a parking space again.

 
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