Bike sharing around the world has seen mixed success. There are plenty of factors at play, but if they can be overcome, nothing else has the same potential to create bike-friendly cities.
We now have the technology to better prevent theft and destruction. So perhaps bike sharing could be more popular if the bikes were a bit cooler, a bit sexier? For example, converting them into California Highway Patrol bikes from the 70’s tv show “CHiPs”. We decided to put this to the test with the CityCycles in Brisbane, Australia:
Of course, if the bikes were this cool, theft could become more of an issue. But it seems this has already been addressed by the newer systems being rolled out. Velib in Paris had poorly designed locks on the side of the frame so bikes were trashed and a ‘Velib Extreme’ craze started. A new system used in cities like Minneapolis and Barcelona locks the headset where the handlebars meet the frames and has very low theft rates.
When combined with a credit card swipe or smart phone hiring, it makes the bike hirer traceable and also makes for easy, spontaneous rides. And apps that show available bikes and docking spaces in real time can help avoid disappointment.
With more advances and improvements, we look forward to seeing more success stories in bike sharing. They have the biggest potential to increase bicycle culture in cities around the world. Barcelona has seen the number of cyclists double. And the more locals and tourists that get around on bikes, the more infrastructure is built to support them. More cycle lanes and more ways to separate bikes from car traffic which also alleviates the need for helmets (an issue in Australian cities which are the only bike shares with mandatory helmet laws).
Next year, New York is set to get 10,000 bikes as the rest of the world catches up to Europe’s lead. Although the largest fleet of bikes is actually in Hangzhou, China with a whopping 60,000 of them and plans to have 175,000 bikes by 2020. We hope that Boris’ Bikes can sort out the complaints and only get better. And bike-friendly cities like Copenhagen, who are looking to upgrade their fleet, and Amsterdam, who are considering bike share for tourists, are ones to watch.
We hope this time they might ditch the heavy bikes with ugly, theft-deterrent paint schemes and lead the way in making bike share a bit sexier.