Bike sharing – rent it, ride it, share it!

Bike Sharing

Have you ever been to the Netherlands? If so, you surely would have noticed the overwhelming number of bikes buzzing along the canals, bridges, and streets, not only in Amsterdam, but everywhere in the country. There is a very practical reason for this bike adoration: cycling maximizes mobility when space is limited and the Netherlands is the most densely populated country in Europe. Consequently, the Netherlands was the first country in the world to introduce a bike sharing system, which was launched as early as the mid-1960s [1]. Back then, a number of white, unlocked bikes were put at random places across Amsterdam and everyone could simply hop on and go. Due to misuse and vandalism, however, the system quickly called for radical improvement. So what is it that defines the bike sharing system we know today? There are three main components: firstly, bicycles distinguishable by color and design. Secondly, a docking station where users borrow and return the bicycle and finally a payment system. The importance of a docking station, however, has declined in the past years. Mobile internet allows users to locate, reserve, and pay for a bike on their smartphone and simply leave it wherever they want afterwards. Commuting to work by bike sharing therefore becomes an ideal alternative to other modes of transport, especially because one doesn't have to worry about theft or maintenance.

Bike sharing systems all over the globe

Today, there are bike sharing systems all over the globe with cities in Europe and China operating the most extensive programs. Businessman riding a bicycle with the Eiffel Tower

Out of the many, two cities stand out in recording particularly phenomenal successes: one is Paris, where the operator Vélib’ provides 20,000 bicycles among 1,450 docking stations all around the city [2]. This means that every citizen or tourist passes a docking station every 300 meters on average. Paris therefore represents an extraordinary example of how bike sharing can be successfully integrated into existent modes of public transportation. The other city to have done well with its bike sharing program is the city of Hangzhou. It is only one of the 19 cities in China operating a bike sharing system. But, more importantly, with more than 60,000 bicycles at 2416 docking stations, it offers the largest bike sharing system in the world [3]. The success stories of these two very different cities draw an insightful conclusion: bike sharing really works as a form of business mobility in any urban center. Furthermore, whilst different cultures may prefer different modes of travel, cycling has global appeal. Biking is healthy and fun, especially after spending hours in an office. With its current advances in terms of simplicity and flexibility, bike sharing could present a real alternative to other means of commuting to work.


[1] http://www.hiptravelguide.com/hip-guide-to-amsterdam/21-amsterdam-tips/296-The%20White%20Bicycles.html [2] http://www.velib.paris.fr/ [3] http://www.treehugger.com/bikes/hangzhous-bike-share-shows-how-its-done-video.html

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