As modernization and urbanization reach levels that have never been seen before, traffic congestion has become one of the menaces we have to deal with in our daily lives. Heavy traffic is associated with social cohesion, sustainable growth, economic competitiveness, losses in terms of accessibility, and safety risks, not to mention air pollution. If we are determined to make our communities and cities more sustainable and attractive, we must take these challenges seriously and find ways to reduce or eliminate them.
Various measures can be implemented to curb the menace of urbanization and traffic congestion. One way is to limit the conventional use of automobiles. Alternatively, we could develop other creative measures to deal with this menace. One of the most marketable and up-and-coming solutions right now is the shared use of mobility resources such as vehicle sharing. However, none of these solutions is as environmentally friendly as bike-sharing. Cycling is a more realistic way to travel over short distances.
Bike-sharing is an innovation that provides the best quality solution while extending the scope and reach of public transport. For the sake of clarity, it is important to define bike-sharing. In our context, by bike sharing, we mean rental schemes, where people pick up bicycles, ride them, then drop them off at designated areas around the city — often at automated stations.
Origins of Bike-Sharing
The origin of the concept of bike-sharing can be traced back to the 1960s. However, during its early days, the idea did not significantly gain traction. Advancements in technology made it possible to obtain real-time information about the sharing scheme, track the bicycles, and help secure them against theft.
Presently, bike sharing is growing at unprecedented levels, mostly because of how easy it is to implement such schemes compared to alternative transport infrastructure, as well as the relatively low cost of the schemes. Bike-sharing is a win-win situation for urban societies and governments that can develop greener credentials by adopting such an environmentally friendly initiative.
Only about eleven cities in the world had adopted bike-sharing in 2004. Today, over a thousand public bicycle schemes of various specifications and sizes operate in over fifty countries, across 5 continents.
Paris Velib is the largest bike-sharing service in Europe. The service provides over 20,000 bikes in 1800 stations. The largest bike-sharing service in the world can be found in Hangzhou, China. Hangzhou’s bike-sharing service is more than three times as big as Velib and featured more than 150,000 bikes as of 2020. While Hangzhou might have the largest scheme, Copenhagen has the most sophisticated. Copenhagen’s Bycyklen service offers a more advanced fleet of bikes boasting features such as weather-resistant tablets with GPS.
Recent studies conducted on the Styr & Stall scheme in Gothenburg revealed that the general population in the region feels that proper promotion of bike-sharing services can lead to an inexpensive, healthy, and pro-environmental mode of transport. They were particularly seen to provide the city with a better and more human-friendly fee, as well as complementing the public transport services of the city.