Friday, February 1, 2008

The Potential of Bike-sharing in Lesser-developed Countries

What is
the potential of bike-sharing in lesser-developed countries? In many ways, the lesser- and greater-developed countries could approach bike-sharing in the same way. Most American cities as well as many European cities who are examining or have implemented bike-sharing programs have or had low bike mode share before bike-sharing. A sample of a few cities, such as Washington, D.C. with a bike commute mode share of about 1.75%, Seattle at 1.5%, and San Francisco at 0.95%, all have desires for bike-sharing. Many European cities with bike-sharing programs also had low bike mode shares before they launched, including Paris (1.6%) and Lyon (less than 1%). I would hazard a guess that lesser-developed countries would benefit equally from bike-sharing programs as long as equal public commitments were made into improving cycle facilities as has generally been the case in Europe.

Bike-sharing has drawn huge media attention in locations where it has been implemented and substantial interest elsewhere from what I've heard and seen. A recent advocacy effort in Philadelphia drew 400 citizens interested in the possibilities of a bike-sharing program in their city. The mayor was so impressed with the turn-out that a serious effort is now underway to examine the issue. Bike-sharing has created a virtuous cycle (pardon the pun) in increasing private bike use too. As bike-sharing develops a constituency user group, maybe then citizens in cities of lesser-developed countries would have an attachment to the program and to an improvement in their city's bike facilities. A local advocacy group need not be present to usher in a bike-sharing program but rather a mayor, elected official, government employee, or simply an interested citizen with a vision. This has been the case with Paris Mayor Delanoe and I'm seeing it happen in the U.S. too. I imagine the same could be true of bike-sharing programs to be implemented in lesser-developed countries.

It's the old chicken and egg issue, with which came first, the cyclist or the cycle track? With bike-sharing maybe it doesn't matter as it creates both.

image credit: Wikipedia

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