Summer is the perfect time to take the bike for a spin. And for those without wheels, Washington, DC’s Department of Transportation has an innovative solution. This spring, the department and Clear Channel Outdoor, an advertising company, launched SmartBike DC, a new bike-share system designed to reduce emissions and cut traffic congestion. The program works similarly to Zipcar: Riders register online for $40 a year and then use ID cards to check out bikes from designated stations for up to three hours at a time. Unlike other bike-share operations, there is no hourly fee and no limit to how often a rider can access a bike.

"The program is designed to become part of the city’s public transportation,” says Martina Schmidt, director of SmartBike US  for Clear Channel. Stations are located at strategic subway and bus stops and throughout business districts. While the endeavor is still small (ten stations harbor a total of about 100 bikes), organizers plan to expand as more people register.

Though DC is the only American city offering SmartBike, Clear Channel operates the service in twelve European cities. Barcelona claims to have prevented the emission of 960 tons of CO2 in the program’s first six months, Schmidt says.

Keep an eye out for SmartBike in a town near you. San Francisco has already signed up, and Portland, Oregon, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, are considering the idea as well.

Story by Dianna Dilworth. This article originally appeared in Plenty in August 2008. The story was added to MNN.com.

Copyright Environ Press 2008.