Monday, February 7, 2011

The Middle East is Also a Hotbed for Bike-sharing

While the Middle East dominates the news this week, bike-sharing is dominating the Middle East. A CycloCity system, Q Bike, in Doha, Qatar has begun operating. The program is a joint effort of the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning and Decaux, a subsidiary of JCDecaux.

“The idea (with this program) is to eventually make our country bicycle friendly,” the Qatar Cycling Federation President told Gulf Times at the launch ceremony. The ribbon cutting was attended by bicycle legend Eddy Merckx to underscore its importance. The program is starting as a small trial, but is planned to expand throughout Doha and possibly the rest of the country. It is interesting to note that this station, pictured above, seems to be a "drop in place" configuration which would not need to be cut, or trenched, into the street or sidewalks as all other CycloCity programs throughout the world have been.

Tel Aviv's TelOfun bike-sharing service is under construction. It is scheduled to begin operation this spring and will start with 750 bikes and 75 stations and expand to 150 stations with 1,500 bikes. There will be an annual subscription fee of 280 shekels with a special 240 shekel price for Tel Aviv residents ($73 and $63 USD respectively). There will also be a weekly price of 60 shekels ($16 USD) and a daily price of 14 shekels ($4 USD), except on Saturdays and religious holidays where there will be a 20 shekel price ($5 USD) for tourists. The usage fees will follow the regular bike-sharing formula of no charge for the first 1/2 hour and then 5 shekels ($1.30 USD) for the next 1/2 hour, etcetera. The bikes, bright green in color, and the stations will be similar to the DB StadtRAD (Call a Bike) system in Hamburg, Germany.

Also in the news from Israel this week is the work of two Tel Aviv University professors, Tal Raviv and Michal Tzur who are working on mathematical models to facilitate re-balancing bike-sharing stations in large systems: Static Re-positioning in Bike-sharing Systems. This is a continuation of a concept developed for the Bicing program in Barcelona by Aleix Ruiz de Villa in 2009.

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