Sunday, November 18, 2007

Seoul's Jumping in By 2010

According to The Korea Times, Seoul is making progress towards implementing a bike-sharing program and kilometers more safe places to ride by 2010. Presently, "the city lacks road infrastructure and related transportation law to guarantee the efficient operation of the free bicycle project." To create a bike-friendly city first, Seoul "will expand the current 55-kilometer bike-only road length to up to 360 kilometers by 2010. For the plan, it will divide the city into five areas and invest 21.8 billion won to set up 45 bike-only roads." 21.8 billion won is about $24 million USD. Not too shabby for improving bike facilities over a 3-year period.

It's good to see this level of investment towards improving bike infrastructure to better support bicycling, the environment, Seoulites health, and bike-sharing. Bike-sharing is but one form of bike infrastructure, however, won't be successful if a bike-friendly environment does not already exist. It seems that Seoul understands this and is planning for the safe places for everyone to ride in addition to bike transit to complement it.

Image credit: Lonely Planet

Friday, November 16, 2007

European-style bike-sharing programs head to US

An article titled "European-style bike-sharing programs head to US" by AFP has information about three programs, those of Washington, D.C.; Chicago; and Arlington, Virginia, that are on their way. Washington, D.C.'s program is to launch in March or April of 2008 with 120 bikes at 10 stations. Small, but hey, it'll be the first in North America. D.C. contracted for the 120 bikes four years ago when it released its Request for Proposals for its bus shelter contract. Four years ago, a fleet of 120 was impressive. With larger and successful programs like Velib' (10,600 bikes now with 20,600 planned) and Bicing (3,000 bikes now with 6,000 planned), the relative size of a small program has shifted. D.C. officials are already considering how to expand the size of their program.

Also, Chicago is considering bids from JCDecaux and OYBike for its program. Both companies have yet to enter the U.S. market, however, JCDecaux's programs in Paris and Lyon are much more visible than OYBike's in the London suburb of Hammersmith & Fulham. Unless OYBike had a very appetizing offer for Chicago, JCDecaux's program is rather sexy.

Finally, Arlington, Virginia is considering another model for the provision of bike-sharing - the government provides the service.

image: Saul Loeb, AFP

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Roam Around Rome, By Bike

Rome is stepping into the 21st Century bike-sharing world with the launch of its own service. The Spanish infrastructure company, FCC, and its outdoor advertising subsidiary, Cemusa, will be providing the service with the Italian Bicincitta' technology, which is used in 15 locations throughout Italy.

AFP reports, "The pilot programme, with an initial length of six months, will include 250 bicycles and 22 stations in the historic centre of Rome," with the eventual goal of reaching Paris' 20,000 bikes.

"Travelling in the centre of Rome will be easier, faster, economical and environmentally sound with the experimental bike-sharing programme," said Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni in FCC's press release.

This is great news however Rome is not known to be bike-friendly. In fact, Rome is known to be hostile towards bikes and pedestrians. The city realizes this and is beginning to create improved bike facilities. On a visit there in June, I came across a cycle track (separated bike facility) under construction in the neighborhood north of the Vatican. Being Rome, it looked like the curbs were made of a high-quality marble instead of the standard concrete. Bellissimo!

image: Colosseum - Wikipedia, Cycle track - Paul DeMaio

Friday, November 9, 2007

Free it may be, but is it cheap?

An article in BusinessWeek discusses the success of the bike-sharing concept and where it's been catching on. The author also discusses who provides the service. Bike-sharing is presently dominated by two companies - JCDecaux and Clear Channel Adshel. They have brought bike-sharing to the forefront with success, and for this they should be commended. However, BusinessWeek contends that localities which contract for advertising on public property and get bike-sharing as a "bonus" are really paying for the service.

The article suggests:

"Would it not be a better deal for a city simply to sell its advertising rights for money, and to the highest bidder? With the revenue it could then pay for a bike rental service or any other programs -- and in the end, if possible, have a tidy sum left over. When it comes to package deals like this one, that suspicion always lingers."

The dissection of the two is happening. In Barcelona, JCDecaux provides the advertising while Clear Channel Adshel provides bike-sharing. The same split is happening in Hamburg too where the city will "hold a separate tender process for a bike rental scheme at the beginning of next year."