The Climate News Network has reported that bikes are being used to tackle both air pollution and congestion.
Paul Brown, the author of the article, reminds us that everybody used to ride bikes in China until the arrival of an urban middle class with their private cars, which soon choked the cities. Pleasingly, the bike is making a comeback and in Hangzhou in Zhejiang province you don’t even have to own one or pay for one, because the city will provide you with a bike to ride free of charge, as long as your ride is 60 minutes or less.
You need a card to hire a bike but the first hour is free, so a commute to work or the shops, or to a bus stop or railway station, that lasts less than an hour is attractive proposition – and 90% of all rides taken are free.
It seems surprising then that the scheme is profitable, because companies pay to advertise on the bikes and on the rental kiosks where they are stored. The advertising revenue is used to pay attendants who operate 35 stands which are typically only 300 metres apart. A central control room monitors the operation and can direct an attendant, as well as ensuring that there are bikes available where needed.
To support the scheme, the city government has imposed parking restrictions and in some parts have banned petrol-powered motorbikes and scooters. The enlightened authorities have integrated the card used to hire bikes with public transport so it works on buses, metro, water taxis and trains: a lesson for the Oyster card perhaps. The city has also introduced a network of bike lanes and bike traffic signals.
The scheme is so successful that it is going to be expanded again, having started with 2800 bikes in 2008, it could soon grow to 200,000 bikes.
The scheme is one of a number of projects competing for an award in the sustainable transport category at the Ashden Awards in London on 15th June, presented by Al Gore, the former US Vice President. If this bike share scheme wins it will garner a £20,000 prize.
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