Where I live in Ottawa, there has been a lot of media attention given to the launch of a new bike sharing system with a grand total of 100 bicycles at 10 stations in the Ottawa/Gatineau region. But our program is positively dwarfed by the bike sharing systems being launched in other parts of the world.
Who has the biggest bike share program?
According to GOOD, cities like Montreal, Mexico City, Washington D.C., London and Paris have all launched bike share programs with between 1,000 and 10,000 bicycles. But even those fairly well known bike share programs are nothing in comparison with the 50,000+ bicycle system that Hangzhou, China has been building over the past few years.
Hangzhou’s 2,050 bike-share stations are spaced less than a thousand feet from each other in the city center, and on an average day riders make 240,000 trips using the system. Its popularity and success have set a new standard for bike-sharing in Asia. And the city is far from finished. The Hangzhou Bicycle Company plans to expand the bike-share system to 175,000 bikes by 2020!
People interviewed in the film mentioned, among other things, the benefits of being able to avoid traffic congestion by traveling by bike.
While articles like the ones from Streetfilms.org and GOOD mention that Hangzhou’s program is the biggest one in the world, the jury is still out on that. A China Travel Advice website mentions a bike share program in Wuhan that has 70,000 bicycles and claims that it is possible to pick up a bicycle within a radius of 800 meters anywhere in the city.
The Helmet Conundrum
One frequently talked about issue when it comes to bike share programs is how to deal with the helmet issue. In many parts of the world, bike helmets are not common. But in other areas, like Canada, that are trying to push these programs, helmets are at least encouraged if not required.
According to the Bike Sharing Blog, Melbourne, Australia’s bike share program is the only one in the world that requires the use of a helmet. In Mexico City, they actually reversed the law that required the use of a helmet in order to facilitate the introduction of Ecobici, their bike share program (source: Copenhagenize).
Having helmets provided by the bike share program has been dismissed in most jurisdictions for a variety of reasons, including:
- hygiene (e.g. lice)
- safety (no way of knowing if the helmet has been in a crash or otherwise compromised)
It seems as though cyclists will need to either plan to take their own helmet with them when using these programs or opt to accept the safety risks of riding without a helmet.
Have you tried bike sharing?
Is there a bike sharing program where you live? If so, have you tried it? What was your experience? How did you handle the helmet issue?
Did You Ride Your Bike To Work Today?
Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.
Image credit: neiljs on flickr