According to the European Environmental Agency’s 2011 Report, transport is having a negative impact on our ecosystem and biodiversity which is a significant issue for the world’s urban areas. The world’s greenhouse gas emissions are mainly coming from the transport sector. In cities where populations are travelling constantly, traffic jams and the extra pollution they cause are detrimental to people’s quality of life and the environment.In addition to public transportation that can be sometimes be crowded and not easily accessible at certain times and places, a trendy transportation concept is an option: the bicycle sharing system.
The first municipal service was launched in 1974 by the city of La Rochelle in France through its service “Yélo” with 350 yellow bikes in 3 stations. This service was directed at making short urban trips. It was inspired by the 1965 “White Bicycle Plan” concept launched by the Dutch counter culture “Provo” movement in Amsterdam: the “Witte Fiets” (the white bikes) which aimed to offer white-painted bikes free with the intention of closing central Amsterdam to all motorized traffic.
Unfortunately, the system relies mostly on demand and people’s mind set which has at times led to failure. It did exist in cities such as Washington with “SmartBike DC” but there were few users and a limited number of bike stations. A failure like this means city planners have to rethink the whole transportation system so that it might work better.
To adapt the system to today´s technology-based world, devices are made to suit the bicycle sharing system through mobile applications like the free Spotcycle application (available in the US, Canada and Australia) which helps to locate nearby bike stations and view bike paths.
In addition to the eco-friendly aspect, all these services offer many advantages such as a 24/7 access and being low cost or free (generally between €1 and €4 for a one-day ticket and between €20 and €30 for a one-month subscription). The web-connected payment systems by card make it easy. Overall, this flexible way of transportation is also healthy and environmentally friendly.
This article has initially been posted by Lena Baudo on December 1st, 2011 on Opinno's blog (Open Innovation).