Following in the footsteps of cities like Lyon and Paris in France, Vienna in Austria and others, Barcelona in Spain has started offering bicycles (the human powered kind... with pedals) to people who need to get around the city. Again, just like in Lyon and Paris, the system has been extremely popular. How popular, you ask? How about 30,000 users so far in the first two months? To be able to use one of the bikes, a user must first register an account online. The first 30 minutes of bike use is free, and the bike must be brought back after 2 hours. Of course, you can retake a bike back out, but you first must re-swipe your membership card.
The purpose of the bikes, and how they are mostly used, is for residents of the city to get around. Tourists do not make up a large portion of the users, from what I understand. The success of these systems show that people really are willing to use the bikes, so long as they are available. With the high cost of gas, I can see fair climate urban areas in the United States being able to follow a similar system. When I visited Salt Lake city a few years back, for example, these bikes would have been the absolute perfect way to get around the city, and would probably work out a good 9 months out of the year. I can imagine them working in Chicago and Seattle as well. These are all cities that I have visited before. They all have a bustling downtown area and the bikes could be used for more than half the year. Obviously, local geography and weather patterns would need to be considered, but I really like the idea.