20 sep 17

Two wheels good: the rapid growth of city bike share schemes

In George Orwell’s Animal Farm, the sheep constantly bleat, “four legs good, two legs bad”. The city of the future is turning this saying on its head – two wheels good, four wheels bad. Bicycle hire and share services are providing users with a quick, cheap, clean and sustainable way to travel around urban areas, and they’re growing rapidly.

Nextbike has more than 40,000 bikes across 120 cities in 24 countries, from Berlin and Budapest all the way to Bhopal, India. The company joined the Warsaw Stock Exchange in August, raising funds to acquire a further 200,000 bikes to accelerate its expansion, and has announced a partnership with Whim, the innovative mobility app, when it launches in Britain this autumn.

Golden age
“We are in a golden age of transport and this is an incredibly exciting development. Nextbike is delighted to be playing its part in such a significant move, which hopes to revolutionise the way people access transport,” said Julian Scriven, managing director, nextbike UK. “If we are to reduce congestion in cities and improve the environment, we have to make the most of an integrated transport framework.”

At MaaS Global - the company behind Whim -  CXO and co-founder Kaj Pyyhtiä,said: “The more ecological and healthy modes of transportation are very interesting to our customers. The demand for such services as bike sharing is growing significantly in every large city.”

Pastel card
This is already happening in Toulouse, where residents can use the Pastel card to gain access to both the public transport network as well as to the city’s bicycle and car-sharing systems. 

In Cologne and Düsseldorf, 3,200 new shared bicycles are about to hit the streets, thanks to a joint venture between Ford of Germany and Deutsche Bahn Connect, as announced at the International Motor Show in Frankfurt. The two companies already collaborate in a car share scheme, but the moves into bike share, accessed via the FordPass app, breaks new ground in their mobility services.

Sustainable solutions
“As a mobility provider, we will collaborate on sustainable solutions that supplement the transportation system in a way that makes sense, particularly in inner city areas,” said Steven Armstrong (pictured), group vice president and president, Europe, Middle East & Africa, Ford Motor Company. 

“The use of bikes for getting around in our cities and the trend towards sharing will gain increasingly in importance in the years to come,” said Sylvia Lier, chair, Board of Management, Deutsche Bahn Connect.

Bike share is already huge business in China, and two of its major players, ofo and Mobike, have targeted the European market. ofo has launched in Cambridge, while Mobike has opened in London and Manchester.

Positive approach
Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, said, “I want to see many more people swapping their cars for bikes, and I will take a positive approach to promoting cycling across our city-region. This scheme could help make cycling more accessible to people. If successful, it could play an important part of our long-term plans for cycling in the region and for making travel easier and more sustainable.”

The silver and orange Mobike bikes are designed to be maintenance-free, with a chainless shaft transmission, no-puncture airless tyres, an anti-rust frame and disc-brakes. They are each equipped with GPS and smart-lock technology, so users can find and unlock a bike via an app. 

Even more flexible
Both ofo and Mobike have brought a different operating model to Europe, running free-floating bicycle schemes with no fixed pick-up or drop-off stations, whereas most bike share operations, such as Vélib' in Paris, Bicing in Barcelona or the ‘Boris bikes’ in London rely on parking bays to rack and secure their bikes. Creating the possibility of one-way journeys makes bike share even more flexible, even if it poses a challenge to bike fleet availability. 

And just before any fleet executive dismisses bike share as a service for slow-moving tourists, Transport for London has created business accounts for the capital’s bike share scheme, allowing companies to buy up to 20 pooled keys for the same price as a single cycle hire account (£90), giving unlimited bike access for a year, for all journeys of up to 30 minutes (longer journeys incur extra charges).

Image: Fleet Europe

Authored by: Frank Jacobs