by Jerome a Paris
Fri Jul 8th, 2005 at 12:54:39 PM EST
With oil having briefly touched 62$/bl before the London bombings, and now back above 61$/bl because of fears of lost production caused by hurricane Dennis, it's time for another countdown diary.
But this time, I'd like to present to you a smart initiative in Lyons (France) which give a new meaning to the expression "a free ride".
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Earlier "Countdown Diaries":
Countdown to 100$ oil (6) -and the loser is ... Africa
Countdown to 100$ oil (5) - OPEC inexorably raises floor price
Countdown to 100$ oil (4) - WSJ wingnuts vs China
Countdown to 100$ oil (3) - industry is beginning to suffer
Countdown to 100$ oil (2) - the views of the elites on peak oil
Countdown to 100$ oil (1)
Inspired by a similar experience in Vienna (if anyone from there can provide some info, that would be great), the city of Lyons, the second biggest in France, decided to provide almost-free access to bikes to everybody in the center of the city. Starting last May, 2000 modern bikes were made available in about 200 locations throughout the city. You need a credit card or a subscription pass to pick up a bike, but the first half-hour or hour is free, as long as you bring it back to another "bikepark". You are charged 150 euros if you do not bring the bike back. The bikes are sturdy and not easily damaged.
The best part of the system is that it is ABSOLUTELY FREE for the city. It is part of the concession given for advertisement on city "furniture" (bus stops and the like) - the company selected, in addition from taking care of said furniture, had to make such system available to the city in exchange for getting the advertising space for a number of years - and there was a competition for the most competitive terms.
Le Monde had a lengthy article back in April (in French) when this was launched, explaining the system (summarised above. A striking bit of information is that if each person uses a bike once a week instead of a car, traffic would go down by 10 per cent.
After a few teething problems, and some partly unexpected ones (the bikepark at the top of one of the hills in the city gets bikes taken from, but very few left there, as people use the bikes to go down but not up... so the company has to bring lots of bikes to that location!), the system seems to be working well (article in French again):
- 10,000 subscribers (for a city of about 1 million, including the suburbs);
- 4,000 rentals per day;
- 70% of users are men;
- they use the bikes for an average of 20 minutes to do 2.8 km (1.7 miles)
- the bikes are used most during rush hour
- 1,000 bikes in 95 sites were available, this is being ramped up further in coming months.
This reduces congestion and fuel consumption. It is not coercive in any way, and, best of all, it costs nothing. The city squeezed this "service" from the ad company as the ad contract was deemed sufficiently valuable by that company to provide that additional service to keep it running.
This should be done in every city center in the world. It cannot solve the problems of the suburbs, but every step in the right direction helps.
And it is actually a step towards the most logical transport system that could be designed: trains or metros for medium or long distance travel, and car or bike rental for local, individual moves, This would slash car ownership and use massively while letting everybody keep (most of) their freedom to move around.