A number of cities are experimenting with "public bikes" or "bike sharing". In Toronto we had our own experiment with CBN's Bikeshare. Last fall, Toronto's city council directed the Chief Planner to investigating a public bike scheme and to look into starting up a pilot project for staff.
Bikesharing started around 30 years ago, in Amsterdam by the Provo anarchist group with a free white bike scheme. Last year it hit big time with the launch of Vélib in Paris (short for Vélo Liberté or bike freedom). Now a number of cities are starting up their own and the place to read all about the different projects is on the Bike-sharing Blog.
On 15th July 2007, 10,000 bicycles were put on the streets of Paris as a new form of urban transport. The Vélib project is run by advertising firm JCDecaux in exchange for the revenue from advertising on billboards. (As of yet there are no completely self-funding bikesharing projects but the same argument could be made of public transit or even the publicly subsidized automobile industry.) JCDecaux and other advertising companies are now providing these "turnkey" operations to other cities. They are attractive for many cities since because the infrastructure and financing come together in a nice, handy package (though not necessarily the cheapest way to implement them).
The Vélib scheme was part of Paris' mayor Bertrand Delanoë's aim to reduce car traffic by 40% by 2020. From its launch last year analysts have found some interesting results:
Number of trips:
- In 6 months (July 15, 2007 - January 15, 2008) there have been 13.4 million trips or about 75,000 trips/day.
- Trips are highly weather-dependent. When the weather is cold and wet, Velib’ has 30,000 trips/day. When the weather is nice, Velib’ can have up to 140,000 trips/day.
- A large percentage of the overall trips are for commuting purposes.
- 25% of trips are from 9PM to 3AM. (Other transit modes run less frequently during these hours, so more reliance is placed on Velib'.)
- The average trip length is 20 minutes. This is about a 3-mile trip in an urban environment with traffic signals and stop signs.
- Only 8% of trips are greater than 30 minutes.
Number of subscriptions:
- 166,000 yearly subscriptions for $45 have been bought.
- In 6 months, about 205,000 tickets for weekly subscriptions for $7.50 and 2.5 million daily tickets for $1.50 have been bought. There is huge tourist demand.
Andrew Curran of TransLink provides a spreadsheet of potential mode share scenarios that Velib could create in Paris. In Andrew's scenario #1 where "Paris finishes installing all 20,600 public bikes, they will have more than doubled their cycling mode share in the span of a few months – increasing by 118% (from 1.63% to 3.55%)", assuming current usage. In addition to the increase in usage of public bikes, the number of private cycling trips will likely occur "since the public bicycle system acts as a 'door opener' to increase the acceptance of cycling as an urban transport mode."
I'd like to present a few different videos to give people an overview of the successes and problems with the Paris program and other similar projects. The embedded video by Bikes Belong features Eric Britton, Consultant for Sustainable Urban Transport. View at your leisure:
- Vélib in Paris
- Vélib Freeride. A bunch of yahoos do some really expensive Vélib freeriding (unless the bikes were stolen).
- Global News on Velib - mentions that Toronto's "transit boss" visited Paris to see what it was all about.
- Montreal's Municipal Bike Rental by Concordia TV. 2400 bikes, 300 service points for 6-7 months per year