Thursday, July 31, 2008
Back to the Future for Melbourne
Just when you think that bike-sharing is pushing the edges of third generation technology, another second generation program is nearing its launch. According to Australia's "The Age",
"A shared 'public bicycle' scheme, similar to a city bike initiative in Denmark, is set to be introduced in Melbourne, Government documents show.
"The system would be similar to a scheme in Copenhagen, which has had a free "city bike" initiative in place since 1997 [actually 1995].
"In Copenhagen, cyclists put a coin in a deposit box and may then take a bicycle for as long as wanted, so long as it is returned to one of 110 city bike racks. It cannot be taken outside the city centre.
"A spokeswoman [for the city] confirmed yesterday the Transport Department was working on the bicycle scheme, to be in place by the end of this year."
The beauty of second generation (coin deposit lock) bike-sharing is its simplicity. Instead of fancy-shmancy high tech bikes and stations, all that's needed is low tech one speed bikes and coin deposit locks. This greatly reduces the cost per bike. However, as there's no tracking method of users of the bikes, theft rates do tend to be higher than third gen programs. As the head of the City Bike Foundation of Copenhagen said to me in 1996, "If a City Bike is stolen, at least the thief is riding a bike." In many ways he's correct. Third gen systems can cost up to $4,500/bike whereas second gen systems can cost $500/bike.
Copenhagen's City Bikes (or "Bycyklen") were ingeniously designed by the father/son team of Wilhelm and Niels Christiansen and also are used is Aarhus, Denmark; Helsinki, Finland; and at a museum in Dusseldorf, Germany. The photo above is a sample of the 2000-model of the bikes which I helped build with a team of great Danes in Helsinki for the launch of their program.