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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bike sharing sweeps Europe

Image of Bicing bike share from Barcelona
From the New York Times, 11.09.08:

European Support for Bicycles Promotes Sharing of the Wheels
BARCELONA, Spain — In increasingly green-conscious Europe, there are said to be only two kinds of mayors: those who have a bicycle-sharing program and those who want one.

Over the last several years, the programs have sprung up and taken off in dozens of cities, on a scale no one had thought possible and in places where bicycling had never been popular. The sharing plans include not just Paris’s Vélib’, with its 20,000 bicycles, but also wildly popular programs with thousands of bicycles in major cities like Barcelona and Lyon, France. There are also programs in Pamplona, Spain; Rennes, France; and Düsseldorf, Germany. Even Rome, whose narrow, cobbled streets and chaotic traffic would seem unsuited to pedaling, recently started a small trial program, Roma’n’Bike, which it plans to expand soon.

For mayors looking to ease congestion and prove their environmental bona fides, bike-sharing has provided a simple solution: for the price of a bus, they invest in a fleet of bicycles, avoiding years of construction and approvals required for a subway. For riders, joining means cut-rate transportation and a chance to contribute to the planet’s well-being. The new systems are successful in part because they blanket cities with huge numbers of available bikes, but the real linchpin is technology. Aided by electronic cards and computerized bike stands, riders can pick up and drop off bicycles in seconds at hundreds of locations, their payments deducted from bank accounts.

“As some cities have done it, others are realizing they can do it, too,” said Paul DeMaio, founder of MetroBike, a bicycle transportation consulting company based in Washington, D.C., that tracks programs worldwide. “There is an incredible trajectory.” (Read more.)
Interesting article in the New York Times, suggesting that bike sharing may have a harder time in North America, due to our pervasive car culture, longer commutes, liability concerns, and..."preference for wearing helmets." Programs have been launched in Montreal and Washington DC, with more on the horizon in the U.S. It seems Clear Channel Outdoor is making a significant push with its SmartBike brand.

Long time bicycle commuters may reap the benefits of these casual bikers, as the presence of riders on public shared bicycles helps swell our numbers, improve our safety, and increase motorist awareness. Gilles Vesco, who runs the Vélo'v bike sharing program in Lyon, told the New York Times: “The critical mass of bikes on the road has pacified traffic. Now, the street belongs to everybody and needs to be better shared. It has become a more convivial public space.”

Image: New York Times.
Visit: Bike Sharing Blog
Visit: Bicing: Barcelona's Communal Bicycle Program Has Transformed The City, Huffington Post
Visit: Bike Share Program For DC NPS Employees Launched, NPS Digest
Visit: Will We Be Able to Pedal Another World Series?, Jewish Exponent
Visit: Bike-Sharing Gets Smart, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: More love for Paris Vélib, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paris Velib is chic, trendy, hip, Bike Commute Tips Blog
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site


chococat78 said...

Great post! I really hope the bike sharing program that is becoming popular in Europe also becomes popular in the US. Major cities like Houston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Diego, and etc all need this due to HORRIBLE traffic congestion.

Anonymous said...

It's too early to judge if bike sharing works. It definitely sounds popular. It also earns an extra credit or two if it changes road behavior and attitudes towards cyclists. That's a payoff that trumps political representation.

Anonymous said...

Thefts puncture Paris bike scheme

Over half the self service rental bicycles in Paris have been stolen.

A popular bicycle rental scheme in Paris that has transformed travel in the city has run into problems just 18 months after its successful launch.

Over half the original fleet of 15,000 specially made bicycles have disappeared, presumed stolen.

They have been used 42 million times since their introduction but vandalism and theft are taking their toll.

The company which runs the scheme, JCDecaux, says it can no longer afford to operate the city-wide network.

Championed by Paris Mayor Bertrand Delanoe, the bikes were part of an attempt to "green" the capital.

Parisians took to them enthusiastically. But the bikes have suffered more than anticipated, company officials have said.

Vélib extreme

Hung from lamp posts, dumped in the River Seine, torched and broken into pieces, maintaining the network is proving expensive. Some have turned up in eastern Europe and Africa, according to press reports.

Since the scheme's launch, nearly all the original bicycles have been replaced at a cost of 400 euros ($519, £351) each.

The Velib bikes - the name is a contraction of velo (cycle) and liberte (freedom) - have also fallen victim to a craze known as "velib extreme".
20,000 bicycles
1,250 stations
Cost 400 euros each to replace
7,800 "disappeared"
11,600 vandalised
1,500 daily repairs
Staff recover 20 abandoned bikes a day
Each bike travels 10,000 km a year
42 million users since launch
Source: Velib

Various videos have appeared on YouTube showing riders taking the bikes down the steps in Montmartre, into metro stations and being tested on BMX courses.

Remi Pheulpin, JCDecaux's director general, says the current contract is unsustainable. "It's simple. All the receipts go to the city. All the expenses are ours," he said.

The costs, he said, were "so high that a private business cannot handle it alone, espcially as it's a problem of public order. If we want the velib set-up to keep going, we'll have to change the business model," he told Le Parisien newspaper.


The original contract gave the advertising company a 10-year licence to exploit 1,600 city-wide billboards in return for running the scheme, plus a share in the revenue, estimated at 20m euros for the first year of operation.

City hall has recently agreed to pay towards the costs of replacing the stolen or trashed bicycles but is refusing to bail out the company.

Not all the bicycles receive rough treatment however. One velib repairman reported finding one of the bikes customised with fur covered tyres.

The scheme was modelled on one in Lyon, which appears to have been less troublesome, and has been extended to other cities in France.

It is also being copied overseas with London, San Francisco and Singapore all intending to set up similar schemes.

Paul Dorn said...

@ Anonymous:
Please see Reports of Velib's Demise Greatly Exxaggerated.