In a recent email discussion on Bixi and bikesharing in Toronto, Mikael Colville-Andersen
of copenhagenize.eu, made some good points about bikesharing: 1) bikesharing, to be successful, is aimed at citizens, not tourists, 2) bikesharing needs to be ubiquitous within the launch area, 3) the sudden surge of bikes makes it an effective tool for change and triggering better bike infrastructure. Just to clarify, Mikael is responding to some other comments that bikesharing was meant only for tourists, and it's not to imply that City staff were ever focusing on such a narrow demographic, quite the contrary.
Read his comments below:
Interesting following the discussion from the sidelines.
One thing that is worrying is the focus on tourists.
Every successful bike share programme in the world is not aimed at tourists, but rather the locals. There are 26 cities in France alone with successful bike share programmes and the local population is the focus. In fact, there are cities that make it difficult for tourists to rent them. In Seville, in Spain, your application takes a week to process. The main reason is to discourage tourists from using it. Otherwise it'll just end up as a gimmick.
Another thing is that visitors to a city won't use a bike share system if they don't see locals riding around on the bike share bikes or private bikes. Especially without sufficient infrastructure. So it's unlikely that tourists will be the main users in Toronto.
In lieu of visionary politicians who invest in necessary infrastructure and who tackle car traffic, a bike share system is the singlemost effective tool in the urban toolbox for encouraging citizens to take to the bicycle. It is a shame that the system may be delayed but the only way to ensure that such a system is a success is to go hard or go home. Carpet-bombing the city with racks and bikes is the first key to success. A few stations here or there is fuel on the fire of the sceptics. "See! They don't work! Nobody uses them!"
With a massive amount of bikes showing up from virtually one day to the next, it shows a city that the bikes are here to stay. Get used to it. Washington DC has a handful of bikes at a handful of awkwardly placed stations. Nobody uses them. If waiting for a more effective launch means more bikes and stations from day one, then that may be a good thing.
Since Vélib started in Paris, 2 million bicycles have been bought by Parisians. Vélib has been a massive success and has transformed the city. The people you rode the metro with are now waiting for the red light with you. Making the bicycle the quickest way to travel around a city is the surest way to ensure success and a bike share system is the golden opportunity to start the ball rolling.
It's important for all involved to realise these things and to work towards these common goals.