Jorge Chapa

Urban Bike Sharing System Coming to London!

by , 02/19/08

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We’ve already seen the massive success of urban bike sharing in Paris, but now the super-smart Velib Bike program is taking to the streets of London! 15,000 bikes, 1,000 stations and more than 7.5 million miles of combined biking later have already been implemented in London, and the new scheme will contribute £75 million and 6,000 shared bikes to the mass biking scheme. Spearheaded by London Mayor Ken Livingstone, the new ‘granny bike’ sharing scheme will reduce traffic congestion and help clear up the air of England’s sprawling capital city.


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The program will begin with 6,000 bikes, distributed across the city in and around London. The so-called ‘granny bikes’ are super sturdy, and have been designed and assembled for high-traffic use, and for low theft appeal. They may not be the sexiest of cycles, but that’s sort of the point — as Jenny Jones, one of the organizers of the program, explains: “They are a little bit grannyish, with a basket and mudguards, and a strong frame, so they are not very attractive to steal. We want to encourage the view of bicycles as a tool rather than a fashion accessory.”

Unlike the Paris system, which provides the free bikes by funding them via advertising, the London scheme will be paid for with taxpayer money. There will be a small cost for the rental, with the first 30 minutes free to everyone, and £1 for every half. The stations will take up existing parking spaces and will be installed every 300 meters in the City and the West End.
But what are bikes without good, safe bike routes? Happily the new London plan also calls for the creation of a dozen cycle commuter routes from the suburbs to the city.

“Cycling is emerging both as a major public transport mode and a mark of a modern cosmopolitan city at ease with itself and its global responsibilities.” said Koy Thomson, chief executive of the London Cycling Campaign. Hey Mr. Bloomberg – please take note!
New York and Sydney… we are waiting…

+ 6,000 free ‘granny’ bikes will bring continental success story to capital

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26 Comments

  1. denis September 19, 2009 at 10:33 am

    I used BIXI over 150 time and I never got overcharged for it.

  2. remy September 10, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    I hope London will get the upgraded version…
    I just rented a BIXI bike three times in Montreal this week-end (3 times 25 minutes = 75 minutes), and my VISA was charged more than 60dollars (canadian). I’d rather rent a car…
    I called… Don’t even think to disagree with the charges… Any case you’re wrong… The system is deemed flawless… The Customer Service just lectures you and “be lucky they didn’t charge you 265$”… (whoever is ‘they”)
    This is the typical urban luxury I could/should have missed

  3. crazy homeless guy April 7, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    …aren\\\’t there free campaigns like this that take used bikes, paint them one color, and distribute them around the city? I remember hearing about these before, but can\\\’t seem to uncover any data on them.

  4. Amy March 15, 2008 at 4:57 pm

    I live in the US and I think this is a FABULOUS idea! I would love to see it come to major cities in the states. I have to admit though, that unless they made some spectacular bike paths, I’d be a little afraid to use them. I live in a fairly large city and there are some seriously crazy drivers around here. I fear I’d be smooshed within minutes.

    Also, I am curious how much £1 translates into in US dollars. That would also influence whether I would use them. If it is cheep enough for the common man to rent them regularly, then that is even better. If the cost isn’t any lower than taking public transportation, I’m not sure it would catch on.

    But all in all, what a great idea to lessen pollution, traffic congestion, and waist lines!!

  5. Seung-heon,Shin March 4, 2008 at 12:53 am

    Hello. Mr Jorge Chapa. I’m Korean blogger and bicycle commuter. I read your article. This article is good to korean bicycle commuter who make bike sharing system in Korea. So, I writed my blog post about your article. I translated this article to Korean(In spite of my bad English) with my comment. Is it illegal or making you unpleasant? If it is, I’ll delete my post. Thank you.

  6. McNeal February 27, 2008 at 4:38 am

    Nice initiative!

    I have to say though that final picture you show there with the numerous bikes is not in London. It’s a picture from my uni town in Belgium. It’s taken in Leuven near the trainstation, most likely during the weekend as many students drive their bike to the trainstation to go home over the weekend to get their laundry done.

    You could say there is an unspoken bikesharing practice in Leuven as well. Leave your bike unlocked and it’s free take, which of course forces the owner of the bike to take another one. Let’s say no student will ever use a bike in Leuven worth more than 100$…

    Mcneal

  7. dogfish February 26, 2008 at 4:55 am

    in response to Quip’s comment – i don’t think the £75million is all being spent just on bikes – there’s infrastructure, safe parking, etc etc.
    Viewing this as a one-off cost is naive – in order for it to be sustainable, it has to generate income – to cover future costs, running costs and ongoing replacement of bikes as they become old or broken. Enough income generate, and it could go towards paying for more safe cycling routes.

    it’s a vicious circle – the more dangerous cycling is perceived to be, the fewer people cycle, more cars on the road – the more cars on the road, the fewer cyclists, and fewer drivers who know how to treat two-wheeled traffic – so cycling becomes more dangerous and fewer people cycle.
    but this can work the other way – more people cycle, it becomes more visible – perceived as safer, so more people cycle – higher visibility & more cyclist – more demand for cycle routes, maybe even more drivers learn how to cope with two-wheelers.
    wishful thinking?

  8. Jay February 26, 2008 at 3:50 am

    Nice idea but it doesn’t do enough. Congestion is so ridiculous in London (and other major towns and cities) that the only way top fix it would be to ban personal cars completely from the most busy/central areas.

    Even without free bikes we have a fantastic public transport system (especially in London) with the tube and the buses (which would run smoothly on clear, car free roads).

    Banning the personal car would leave the roads open for the important uses of freight, businesses that require transport of heavy items, public transport and the emergency services.

    Its time to realize that allowing across-the-board use of huge tin boxes that pump filth and fumes into the atmosphere (as well as occasionally killing/maiming innocent pedestrians/road users) for the sake of a misguided belief in every individuals right to that “convenient” mode of transport is choking our cities.

    If people still didn’t like public transport for whatever reason (fear, snobbishness etc) then maybe they would learn just how convenient riding a bike can be. I know I’ll never swap mine for a car.

  9. Quip February 25, 2008 at 1:44 am

    75 Million pounds? That works out at a mere 12,500 pounds per bike. Doesn’t that seem a little ridiculous, plus whatever the private sector is putting in, and then the revenue generated from the rental scheme.

    Getting more people out of their cars (or off the cramped public transport) and onto bikes is a fantastic idea, but is this really the most cost-effective solution? We charge people to ride the bikes they’ve already payed for (via taxes).

    The likely situation for an average commuter– find the nearest bike stand, hoping it’s somewhere near your residence, work out how to get there. Great, free half an hour, head off to work, oh.. can’t keep the bike for the day (it would cost you more then a travelcard for the same time) so again, you need to park it and get yourself the final way to work. It just seems.. lacking.

    You could buy a nice commuter bike for a hundred pounds, especially if you’re buying in vast quantities. So why not work our a more social scheme. Buy 750,000 bikes and dispense them to people who are most likely to use them, that’s roughly one in ten people for the whole population of London. Every civil servant, every teacher, every kid, find the demographics that fit and push to them, the population of central is only 8 million right? Imagine getting just hitting a small percentage of that, it would be incredible for some many reasons.

    It all just seems rather wasteful, seventy-five million is a great deal of money and it’s including a rental fee too?

    Alternatively, put the money into better bike paths and perhaps people will feel more willing to get onto bikes– I used to have to travel right through London to get to Camden Town and I can assure you, the bike lanes, are few and far between. Some areas are brilliant, Camden has some entirely dedicated lanes, physically seperated from the traffic– but the vast majority are still two feet wide, seperated from the traffic by a white line– and nine times out of ten, blocked by parked cars. Great fun if you’re into cycling, but for a quiet commute, maybe too much.

  10. ebikehub February 22, 2008 at 3:19 pm

    ebikehub.com the electric bicycle forum. Lots of electric bicycle information, dealers reviews, news, links, pictures and videos.
    Enjoy

    http://www.ebikehub.com

  11. C CALLUM February 22, 2008 at 11:20 am

    I live in Lyon and this works pretty well, its been here longer than Paris, but its a lot smaller than London and certainly not as busy, I hope it takes off but I seriously think it will take a while to tackle the road space issue first!

    The main problem is here in France, people dont seem to worry about cycling in pedestrian areas and on pavements like they do in London, so at least you UK guys wont suffer from being run down by Velob!!

  12. Magnus February 21, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Wow, thanks for that link Arne! I do not understand Danish, but I was really happy to see that Velorbis has a UK site as well http://www.velorbis.co.uk

    It is great to see more bicycles here i London! Now they just have to get better roads as well….

    Take care in the traffic!

  13. Arne February 21, 2008 at 8:55 am

    Not very sexy bicycles…I wish they could use this model instead http://www.velorbis.dk/velorbis-cykler/velorbis-victoria-classic/velorbis-victoria-classic/ (the Grandmother of all Granny bikes)

  14. Alexis February 20, 2008 at 12:19 pm

    re: kyle jone’s comment

    not everyone in portland has a bike! I’ve been saving up to buy one, if we had a program like this, I would have started bike commuting months ago. If any american city should try it, we should… actually i think i heard that we did try it and it didnt work out…

  15. Eleonora February 20, 2008 at 8:13 am

    yes, we’ve been having it in Barcelona for 6-7 months now, The bikes are not so chic, but the success has been massive ( a bit of a concern for us long-term bikers). These programmes are great but should always go accompanied by other kind of initiatives that help people achieve consciousness of different and necessary ways to reduce waste and pollution. The plan to ban free plastic bags in London is a great one too. Cheers from BCN!

  16. Michael February 19, 2008 at 11:40 pm

    What a sensational idea!!! I would truly welcome an idea like this being implemented here in Australia – not just in Sydney, but Melbourne, Brisbane (my town), Adelaide, etc etc etc…..

    Perhaps the Mayors of Australia are reading this? Or perhaps they are just too busy planning tunnels and bridges and roads – oh my (its just like in the Wizard of Oz)…….. Mayors – your challenge in the lead up to the Local Government elections is to act now. Let’s also find a way to get around the aversion by people to ‘sharing’ the mandatory cycle helmet, and Councils/developers/planners – start providing appropriate beginning/end of trip facilities for cyclists. Then people – I hope we will have a winner :)

    The other HUGE challenge of course is changing the attitudes of the car bound masses to the the way they see, and act to bike riders. Being a cyclist, I see the absolute vitriol that gets spat our way, by means of abuse, eggs, bottles, and of course drivers hurling their own cars at unsuspecting cyclists….. oh the inhumanity.

    Undoubtedly this type of program will be best implemented when supported by city administrators giving parts of the public realm – both onroad, and in open space/recreational places – back to cyclists and pedestrians (as well as actually applying proper and appropriate penalties to drivers who see cyclists as target practice).

    Here in Australia the number of bikes sold each year is far outstripping the number of cars bought. Its about time we fully acknowledged the potential of the humble bicycle as a means of addressing the conjoined challenges of sustainability/mobility/climate change/healthy cities/healthy humans.

    As Freddie Mercury sang – Get on your bikes and ride….

  17. Common sense February 19, 2008 at 8:41 pm

    OJ-person, that’s not really that funny, and people like you should be the ones having stones thrown at them. Of course that if you do wheelies on them they’ll break, brainiac. What did you expect from a grannybike? They’re supposed to make you thinner and eco-responsible, not to enable you to act like an arse! You should spend more time at home, playing world of warcraft. growing pimples and reeking, in order to preapare you for an untimely death by choking at age 17.

  18. OJ February 19, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    I got one of these in vienna… Did mad pop-a-wheelies and bunnie hops… got a flat…
    Muther Fers didnt let me rent a bike again… Too bad I just used a different credit card…
    But I dont use those shit bikes… and I throw stones at people who ride them.
    OJ age 14 1/2

  19. Kyle Jones February 19, 2008 at 2:18 pm

    Portland could try this, but everyone already owns a bicycle…

  20. Sophia February 19, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    “The London Scheme will be paid for with taxpayer money”, you wish.. As it says there: it’s free for the first half hour, £1 per half hour after that, so its actually paid for by the users. And I’m sure that if it catches on the price will double soon. NOTHING is free in London.
    At least this is a better idea than some other trafic reducing schemes we’ve got.
    I just wish it was safer to ride a bike in the city.
    Sophia
    London

  21. Tonya February 19, 2008 at 11:55 am

    This looks really fantastic.

  22. Nick Simpson February 19, 2008 at 10:40 am

    There’s been plenty of whinging here in the UK about these, calling them a waste of time and expensive. The thing is people forget you’re not meant to keep hold of them, you’re meant to ride them from one station to another, so you’ll only have the bike for about an hour or so maximum before effectively swapping it for another.

    The cycle path issue however is a problem – it’s not treated seriously here and cycling (my main means of transport) can be a bit dodgy on some roads.

  23. Elit Alice February 19, 2008 at 10:11 am

    good news! :)

  24. kennedy February 19, 2008 at 8:51 am

    this thing sounds like a great idea! and it seems like one of the best ways to lower traffic pollution and obesity. the bikes do look a little ”granny-ish” but otherwise they look like they are from the future with electric motors and central computers. Hellloooooooooo?! I think we REALLY need some over here in the US!

  25. João Sousa February 19, 2008 at 7:49 am

    great!!

    we need that in Portugal!!! pleaseeee

  26. Hugo February 19, 2008 at 4:17 am

    As you pointed out, Jorge, this is not a new concept. But it might be more common than you think it is. This system is quite commonly used in Lyons (France’s 2nd city), Barcelone and probably lots more. A very nice concept, and it is proven to work. These city’s did cope with a (too) large amount of bikes in business areas during office houres.

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