Every new bike hire scheme (think “Boris Bike”), or expansion of an existing one in a big city, not only sees the march towards such schemes continue apace, but also helps the expansion from the largest cities down eventually to the medium sized and small ones. They also set the scene for motorists and cyclists alike and help to provide the “critical mass” – cyclists can feel safe because they are on of a number of cyclists, and vehicle drivers have to take notice of cyclists as there are so many more of them.
It’s a long way from East Anglia, but the “Bay Area” of California, which covers cities such as San Francisco, Redwood City, San Jose, San Mateo and Palo Alto, took a proposal to their Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC) two days ago, and approved a massive increase from the 2013 level of 700 bikes at 70 docking stations to a massive 7,000 bikes. The whole programme comes at no cost to the taxpayer although the cities in the Bay Area will benefit enormously financially through reduced congestion and reduced pollution, as well as the documented improved health and motivation of employees who cycle.
This 10-fold increase was welcomed by politicians on the MTC as well as local area cycling groups, who used words like “game changer” and “transformational”, and it will lead to this being the 2nd largest bike share scheme in the USA.
The company that runs the scheme is called Motivate International Inc who also runs schemes in Chicago, New York, Washington DC and Seattle as well as some other towns in both the USA and Canada, and have over 17,000 bikes in their schemes to date. They fund the scheme through corporate sponsorship (like Barclays in London till recently, and now Santander).
Like the “Boris Bike”, the bikes feature a built in basket and front and rear lights. Somewhat surprisingly, given some of the hills in the Bay Area, they are going down from 7 to 5 handlebar gears in the Bay Area, but the company says that these new models will be as able to climb and maintain control on descents. The new bikes are also lighter, without sacrificing durability of gears, cables, seats, tyres, etc. Motivate International are saying that they have been contacted by several potential sponsors who are attracted by the values that bike sharing represents – wellness and fitness as well as environmental protection.
Now all we need is the “Butterfly Effect” in Chaos Theory to pertain: the flapping of the butterfly’s wings in California needs to have big effects this side of the pond! Wikipedia lists over 600 cities worldwide in August 2014, up from 535 in 49 countries in April 2013 with a total fleet then of 517,000 bikes. Europe appears to be led by Spain with 132 fleets followed by Italy with 104.
On a smaller scale, Abellio Greater Anglia offer “Bike & Go” at an increasing number of rail stations here in the East of England. At the time of writing, there were the following numbers of bikes available:
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