Short errands across town can add up when it comes to gas costs, taxi or bus fare. But bike sharing programs in place throughout the country are making those short trips more affordable, and healthier, by providing fleets of bicycles that can be loaned at a low cost for short periods of time.

Riding a bike instead of driving can add up in the long run. According to the website Bicycle Universe, someone who chooses to live car-free for 35 years can save over $1 million! Maybe it isn’t realistic for you (or your family) to live car-free, but ditching the car when making short trips around town can make a difference in your budget.

And when vacationing in other cities, these programs can help save money because they are considerably cheaper than cab fare. Seeing a city by bike gives you a fresh perspective you wouldn’t get in the passenger seat of a car or behind the glass of a city bus.

The other benefit of cycling? It’s good for your health! A 30-minute ride gives you the daily dose of recommended exercise to maintain good health and fitness.

All of the following programs offer bikes for short term use, meaning they are ideal for shorter rides (a few miles): Meeting a friend for lunch, returning library books, going to a movie theater, touring a new city, etc.

B-cycle

Fleets of bicycles are available for short term use through the B-cycle program. This national program is in place throughout the country and gives users the option of purchasing a pass for 24 hours, 7 days, 30 days or annually. Rates vary from city to city. For example, a 24-hour pass in Denver is $8, while in Houston a 24-hour pass is $5.

Citi Bike

A bike sharing program called Citi Bike is scheduled to launch in New York City in March, 2013. It will be the largest program of its kind in North America with 600 stations and 10,000 bikes throughout Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens.

The program is designed for short trips around the city (around 3 miles or less than 45 minutes), and users can pay for a 24-hour pass ($9.95), 7-day pass ($25) or annual pass ($95). After paying for the pass, users are given an access code (annual pass holders get a key). Bikes can be returned to any station when the rider is finished for the day.

Capital Bikeshare

This company has more than 1,600 bicycles at stations throughout the D.C. area, including Washington, D.C., Arlington, VA and Alexandria, VA. Capital Bikeshare gives riders access to a bicycle for short-term use on a basis of 24 hours ($7), 3 days ($15), 30 days ($25 or annually ($75). The first 30 minutes of each trip are free.

Clever Cycles

With rental bikes specifically designed for large families and/or a commuter with a heavy load to carry, the bikes at Clever Cycles are designed to be tough. After only a year of use, they're simply “broken in” instead of worn out. These rare bicycles get put on the market to own, (once or twice a year) and are also available for rent year round. It's a rare opportunity to acquire one of these distinctive bicycles, all completely equipped with generator lighting, fenders, racks, stands, etc.

Hubway

The bikeshare program known as Hubway serves riders in the Boston area, but it is seasonal. The season ends in late November and starts in early April. Riders may purchase a pass for 24 hours ($5), 3 days ($12) or annually ($85).

This is a guest post by Candi from Pittsburgh, PA
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