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.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Freewheelin' Gears Up for the Political Conventions

This morning Representatives Blumenauer, Oberstar, Petri, and Wamp hosted a news conference on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol announcing a "bike-partisan" challenge at the Democratic and Republican National Conventions in September. Humana Inc. and the not-for-profit Bikes Belong are bringing 1,000 free bikes to the political conventions as part of Freewheelin'.

The Congressmen challenged convention delegates and all convention-goers to get on a bike and collectively participate in 10,000 bicycle rides and tally-up 25,000 miles. The Representatives noted that the benefits of bike-sharing are the deficits it produced - and the only good deficits you're likely to hear about these days - a deficit in obesity and pollution.

Freewheelin' is normally an unattended bike-sharing technology, however, at the conventions it will be attended by volunteers who will introduce conventioneers to bike-sharing. After each convention, 70 bikes and seven stations will remain in the cities with the remainder of the bikes donated to social programs.

If SmartBike D.C. doesn't launch this August as is hoped, Freewheelin' in Denver after the Convention, when it becomes unattended, could be the U.S.'s first high-tech bike-sharing program. Stay tuned bike-sharing fans...

Friday, July 25, 2008

Post Number 100

I would like to thank readers of The Bike-sharing Blog for your continued interest. What started off as a whim in May 2007 with the launch of The Bike-sharing Blog, readership and features of The Blog itself have greatly expanded over this time. Now over 200 individuals each day make this blog their source for international bike-sharing information. I work to make The Bike-sharing Blog interesting, useful, and insightful and hope it has assisted with the cross-pollination of this crazy little concept on two wheels in its spread throughout the world.

In my on-going efforts to make The Bike-sharing Blog even better, I have created a new section especially for my readers from governments with the "Tender Examples" section on the bottom of the right column. In this section, I have uploaded tenders from localities around the world, including Brisbane, Chicago, New York, and Tel Aviv which should be useful to government officials in the writing of their own Request for Proposal for their own citizens and visitors to benefit from a bike-sharing program.

Now for the next 100 posts, I want to hear from you as to what you like about The Bike-sharing Blog and your ideas on making it even better.

If you don't have a bike-sharing program in your city yet, write to your local elected leaders and transportation department head. No other mode of public transit has ever been as economical, healthy, and environmentally friendly as bike-sharing and therefore every city around the world should have its own fleet of transit bikes.

Best wishes,

Paul DeMaio
MetroBike, LLC
Washington, DC, USA

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Better By Bike

As reported by TreeHugger, Mexico City has a new bike rental program called Mejor En Bici or Better By Bike. "To use the bikes, users must register, sign a form, and leave a piece of identification and a deposit of 200 pesos (about $20), which is returned when the bike is dropped off at the same station. The bikes are available from Tuesday to Sunday 10 am to 6 pm."

While not quite bike-sharing as the three urban stations appear to be staffed and don't allow for a different drop-off location, bike use programs of all kinds such as this one and employer bicycle fleets (i.e., bicycle libraries) are gaining popularity around the world with the rise in the cost of energy and greater concern about the environment.

Image credit: Travesias

Monday, July 21, 2008

Employment Opportunities

In order to facilitate bike-sharing companies in staffing their programs and job-seekers in finding these companies, The Bike-sharing Blog is now offering a service where bike-sharing companies may place an ad linking to their employment page for a fee. For more information on ad placement, bike-sharing companies should contact MetroBike.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Albuquerque Plans to Roll in 2009

The City of Albuquerque has selected Clear Channel Outdoor to provide its SmartBike bike-sharing service. According to local TV station KRQE, "Mayor Martin Chávez said he plans to have 500 bicycles in more than 25 kiosks throughout the city by early next summer." Pricing for use of the program has yet to be worked out, however, the mayor promises it would be affordable.

After the problems Clear Channel has had in D.C. with the local power company, PEPCO, metering and electrifying the stations, Clear Channel is considering making their stations solar. This is a good idea in general and especially so in the American Southwest which has some of the highest rates of solar energy in the U.S.

image credit: Wikipedia

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Is There Such a Thing as Too Much Velib'? Hmmm, No.

Streetfilms produced this interesting video about Velib' - the largest bike-sharing program in the world. Eric Britton of the New Mobility Agenda, and Celine Lepault and Didier Couval of the City of Paris discuss their city's phenomenal bike-sharing program. Britton states that it's more than a coincidence that the rise of bike-sharing programs was timed with the world's increased concern about global warming, as a majority of existing bike-sharing programs have launched in the past 3 - 4 years.

I also have a catchy new soundtrack from this video which will be playing in my mind the next time I'm bike-sharing.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Velib'

July 15, marks the first birthday of Velib' in Paris. The social experiment called bike-sharing has been tremendously successful, even though it has experienced a few bumps along the way. According to The Times, Parisiens and tourists have made 27 million bicycle trips on the Velib' in the past year which is a 70% increase in bicycle traffic. When many cities talk about doubling their bike traffic in 5 - 10 years, Paris getting close to doing this in one year is phenomenal.

The Times also reports that there have been three fatalities since the beginning of the program which is tremendously unfortunate, however, according to the article, "the overall [bicycle crash] rate has declined by 20%." This is due to the law of safety in numbers.

Research from John Pucher and John Buehler of Rutgers University, titled "Making Cycling Irresistible" shows that countries with the highest bicycling rates not coincidentally have the lowest injury and fatality rates. Click on the two graphs below to enlarge them (or break out the magnifying glass).

The Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany have some of the highest percentages of trips made by bike and are therefore some of the safest places to ride a bike. (The data was collected before Velib' began.)

Velib' and other bike-sharing programs around the world are creating cities that are more bike-friendly. Without Velib', Paris would not be as bike-friendly as it is today. This is not to say that bike-sharing alone can make a city safer for bicyclists as this also requires great political will and financial commitment to create a network of safe bicycle facilities BEFORE a bike-sharing program is implemented.

So Happy Birthday, Velib'! Thank you for introducing a wacky concept that supposedly would never work to the masses. Without you, much, if not most of the work that is going on around the world on bike-sharing programs would not have been done. Cities are places for experimentation and Paris has show that this experiment works.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Start Spreading the News...

The Big Apple is hoping also to become the Big Bicycle with today's release of a Request for Expressions of Interest by the New York City Department of Transportation. New York is an ideal city for bike-sharing with its population density, flatness, climate, and transit infrastructure. Bike facilities in the city also are ever-improving and they are experimenting with the Ciclovia concept of weekend openings of major streets for bicycle and pedestrian use in August.

The document reads:

The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) released this week a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) to examine the possibility of creating a bike share program in New York City. If feasible and adopted, such a program would create a network of publicly accessible bicycles at minimal cost, and could provide an important transportation link at transit hubs and commercial and social areas - greatly increasing mobility citywide.

"New York is a world-class city for biking, and we are looking to build a world-class bike network," said DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. "The number of bike commuters has increased 77% since 2000. We now have more than 300 miles of on-street bike lanes, more than 5,000 bike racks, and have distributed more than 15,000 bicycle helmets. Alongside this infrastructure investment, we continue to look for new ways to reach our goal of doubling the number of bicycle commuters."

The RFEI seeks expertise and information related to bike sharing programs from firms and other interested parties who would be able to implement such a program to serve both recreational and multi-modal transportation purposes. The RFEI notes that the most successful existing Bike Sharing Programs minimize the cost to bike share users and provide a sufficiently extensive network of stations to accommodate a wide range of potential short trips in the network's area of focus. However the agency remains open to receiving any new ideas and financing structures that would meet New York City's framework.

Bike-sharing programs elsewhere incorporate low-cost access to a bike network in an urban setting. Users either pay a per-use fee to access a bicycle at a bike station (normally, near a mass transit hub) or they hold an annual membership which allows them regular access to the public bicycles. Users are then able to return the bicycles to any station in the system. Common uses are for commuting, recreation, quick trips, and travel between transit stations, resulting in an overall reduction in the use of motor vehicles. The bicycles used in the program often include unique markings or coloring to distinguish them from privately-owned bicycles.

Respondents to the RFEI will be asked to provide detailed information on what they estimate the size of New York City's bike share market to be, as well as information on the scope of a feasible bike share program including ideas on station site selection, equipment, fee structures, technology and all related costs for both implementation and upkeep.

Only about 1% of commuter trips in New York City are made by bicycle, so as part of its strategic plan, Sustainable Streets, DOT intends to double that number by 2015 and triple it by 2020. Bike share programs exist in cities such as Paris, Copenhagen, Vancouver, Barcelona, Milan and other American cities such as Washington, D.C. have experimented with the bike share program.

For a copy of the RFEI, please visit the DOT website. The RFEI is not intended as a formal offering for the award of a contract or for participation in any future solicitation.

image credit: Opera Gallery

July Update on D.C. Bike-sharing Program

There continue to be delays with the electrical hook-up of the bike-sharing stations by the local energy provider, PEPCO. Seven of the 10 stations are completed, however, three still remain unpowered, stalling the launch date of SmartBike D.C. to August.

For a sneak peak of how the bikes will be checked-out, here's a piece on bicycling's rise in America by NBC News.