The winter is very cold this year across various regions of the United States. Guess what, it is very cold in many places across Europe. I just returned from a week long businss trip across several European countries and in the process was certainly exposed to pretty cold weater. However, I was also very surprised to see a relatively heavy use of bicycles in both Stockholm and Brussels even while the temperatures were constantly below 0-degrees Celcius!
I was visiting a large electronics company and saw a bicycle parking lot which had a large number of bikes in it parked….. IN the SNOW! Having seen that, I asked one of the hosts – "are people using the bikes even now, in the winter?" The response was – "Yes, of course!"
A couple of days later I was in Brussels and while there was no snow on the ground at the time, I saw even more use of the bicycles in this city (as well as in near by Antwerpen). I came across not one, but two bike sharing programs in the city – which is a further testament for the good use those bikes get. The two programs I came about are Vilo! and Blue Bike
- Blue-bike – this is a program associated with the Belgium Rail system; Bikes are located at 40 stations across Belgium and apparently more are being added. The process for renting a bike from this program is simple – you become a subscriber at the cost of 10-euro/year; Then you use the membership card to get bikes from one of the many stations. The bikes are available for rent between 7:00 and 19:00 every day. The rental is for 18-hours per day and one membership card enables the renting of up to two bikes each time — i.e. you can share the card with a friend and encourage them to use bicycles. A good idea! The actual rental is 3-euros for the day. Payment is monthly.
- Villo! Bicycle Sharing Program: This is another bike sharing program available in Brussels with stations located approximately every 450-meters throughout the city. The stations are open for renting 7-days a week 24-hours a day — i.e. since they are automated – they are always accessible and available. The rates are listed here – per Villo! web site
All in all, this was a very impressive setup – next time I am in Europe and if in Belgium, and if I am a tourist, the bike ride is in my plans!