Bike Highways – Mega Cities Investing in Bicycle Infrastructure

Bike Highways

Over the last century or so, the world and its cities have spent trilions of dollars on automotive related highways.  The interstate highway system in the US or the autobahns in Germany are example of engineering greatness – creating efficient and very convenient (for cars and trucks) roadway system.

Now we have examples of significant investment going into biking infrastructure in big metro areas.

  • Paris: investing approximately $164M to build a 28-30 mile highway for bicycles;
  • Atlanta: pledging to invest $1B over the next 25 years into biking and walking infrastructure in order to make the city more liveable

The Paris plan is being described in the article by CityLab and per that article hopefully it will get completed.   From personal experience – Paris desperately needs the bicycles as the congestion in the city is pretty bad.  I remember spending hours stuck in traffic trying to leave the city on the way to near by towns and then come back in the evening…

Atlanta is no different — yes, it needs the plan and its results…Here is more on it

Well, check them out and encourage your local communities to do the same…

Biking Benefits and Road Safety

In the fall of 1987 I moved to Beijing – yes, that’s right – you read it correctly.  I had the good fortune to find my way to China in the early days of its opening to the rest of the world and in a time when Beijing was still heavily navigated by its citizens riding on bikes.  Based on what I have read on various statistics web sites, Beijing peaked in bicycle ownership as % of residents moving around by bike in 1986 with that percentage being 63%!

Think of that — 63% of the city’s population using bikes for commute etc.  I saw that in 1987 – acquiring a bike was a pinnacle of one’s achievement (when it comes to transportation).  Admittedly, car ownership was out of reach for probably 60% of the overall 63% who owned bikes (statistic above), but nevertheless moving around the city then was much, much easier.

bicycle statistics

When I look at the statistics for road fatalities vs bike ridership, I cannot help but wander – what if China and most of the res of the world got back on bicycles – what will happen….I am thinking – good things will happen – i.e. less accidents, and much healthier population 🙂

Infographic: More Cyclists In A Country Means Fewer Fatal Crashes | Statista

You will find more statistics at Statista;

The important part to consider is that the bicycle rides will also allow to reduce the impact of fare increase for subway in Beijing.  The ticket prices increased from 2RMB to 3RMB minimum and now the prices are dependent on distance traveled.

Of course you would think that the rise in public transport prices will give a boost to Bike Sharing in Beijing – but based on info I found on the web – there are only 22K bikes being deployed in the bike sharing programs in the city.

By the way, if you are visiting Beijing on a leisurely schedule and the weather during your visit is good, you should consider biking around the city.  It will save you time and make you a lot more mobile – hence allow you to see more…

Connected Gadgets for Your Bicycle

CES 2015 has been certainly the year of connectivity.  Gone are the days when the stars of the show were 60-inch, then 80-inch, then 105-inch flat panel TVs…Those are now well underway to the homes of many consumers.

This year, it seems like transportation has invaded the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) – all sort of smart cars and…..wait….gadgets for bicycles as well.  In previous article I talked about the Car-to-Bicycle Communicating Helmet, and now we have a pedal that allows the bike it is part of to be connected.  A French company Connected Cycle, has developed this pedal which notifies you any time the bike is moved and also provides you with the location of the bike.

Connected Pedal Smart Phone and Pedal Connected

Connected Pedal Colors

The pedal has integrated GPS functionality that creates the tracking and prevents the bicycle from being stolen – a significant plus in a big city or part of a bike sharing program.

In addition, the pedal records the bike’s speed, route, incline, and calories burnt and of course those will be stored and accessed via a cloud service.  So overall, useful and interesting.

 

 

Bike Sharing Program in Beijing

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a summary on the bike sharing programs in Brussels, Belgium – a very well structured and what appeared as well used system of bikes, rent stations and of course people ready to leverage the service regularly.  

So, on a recent trip to Beijing, I decided to take a look at the options for bike sharing in this city.  This is actually an important topic.  Why?  for many reasons – As Beijing has grown, we have seen the following issues:

  • Our ability to catch a taxi cab has become increasingly small — very frustrating experience indeed.  Cabs appear to be fewer and fewer – in reality the population seeking their service has grown drastically
  • Congestion on the city roads has become hurrendous — the various loop roads in Beijing resemble more and more a parking lot each morning and evening
  • Because of the previous two bullets, might as well forget motor vehicles as a reliable transport for everyday small tasks!

So then we have to rely on the subway and…..bikes!  Hence a bike sharing program is very much a necessity…

How does it work in Beijing?  Well, here is the summary:

  • You need to have a valid "Beijing Public Transport IC card"
  • The card looks like Beijing Transport Card
  • You have to have enough funds in the card to be able to support a deposit of RMB400 plus fees for the ride each time; 
  • You have to your card registered for the program at one of these subway stations: TianTan DongMen, DongZhiMen, ChaoyangMen
  • The fees for renting a bike are: first hour is free; RMB1/hr thereafter with a max of RMB10/day

There are apparently 14000 bikes for rent in the city.  They are located at many stations throughout the city

 

Bike Share    Bike Share   Bike Share Terminal Beijing

I hope this program continues to operate in the future and grows.  It is certaintly (I think ) badly needed in cities like Beijing.  One observation (and some photos to attest to it) though — it was very disappointing to see non-program bikes being parked in the area of the bike sharing.  

Non-program bikes those are NOT the program bikes….People using the space for their bikes…

 

Bicycles in European Cities

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.

 Blue-bike bicycle sharing in Belgium   

  • 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

  Bicycle sharing program Villo!

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!

Bike Share Programs vs Politics in Kolkata

Interesting developments in the huge Indian city of Kolkata – while the rest of the world is adding more and more bike share programs, as listed in my previous article, and as you will soon find in database on this blog, this Indian city is going the opposite (wrong) way.   Kolkata officials have decided to ban bicycles on majority of the city roads.

Admittedly if you have been in any of the Indian cities, you would wonder – how do the bicycles get around and stay unharmed anyway….!  Being on the road in many of those cities is VERY dangerous to your health.   I remember being in Bangalore a couple of times in the last two years or so and in both cases I was strongly advised not to cross most of the city streets on foot.  Why?  Because that is a significant hazzard..!

Ban to bicycles in Kolkata Here is a view from ndtv.com

Angry protests are going on as a result of the ban.  Some local activists are also expressing their dismay at the decision.  Here is a snapshot from one of the India media sites:

Social activist Medha Patkar has appealed to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to revoke the blanket ban on cycling in Kolkata, saying this will work against poor and working class people who are dependent on this "inexpensive" mode of transport to earn a living.

Net-net, this is a strange move and one that will not improve anything.  The space and dangers inflicted by bicycles are not anything major and will be well surpassed by the chaos that motorbikes bring (and the everpresent Bajaj cabs) — so don't expect Kolkata to be somehow in more ruly traffic….won't happen.

So, once again, I think India will benefit big time from getting more bicycles NOT LESS, on its roads in order to maintain green environment as much as possible as well as allow for more sustainable development.

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Guide to Bike-share Programs

Bike-share programs are becoming increasingly popular across the globe.  In essence we have observed somewhat of an explosive growth of those programs across North America, Europe, Asia. So I decided to provide a summary of those programs in various parts of the world and hopefully that can become a guide for those of us who travel and would need access to a bike in a city across the world.  Later on I plan to put together a database of the programs where I provide further information and a more extensive list of the programs and locations.  

Based on data I have found so far, there are over 530 bicycle sharing programs worldwide.  Here are also some stunning statistics (courtesy of US News and World Report):

Bike sharing statistics

The programs include various methods of membership including

  • daily pass — in the range of $6-$12
  • Multi-day (e.g. 3-day) — in the range of $22-$25
  • Pay by month (but a commitment to an annual total membership required)
  • Annual — which range from $65 to $100

The programs are becoming so popular that some of the companies that operate them for various cities are now offering programs for property owners as well — i.e. if you are operating an appartment complex, would you like to offer bike renting / sharing to your renters….a very neat idea.  One example of such a company is Zagster.com  

I like their strong push into getting agreements in place with even hotels — on their blog I saw an article highliting that bike sharing is "The Modern Hotel Amenity" — I can see the attraction of that.  The Hyatt in Philadelphia is apparently already offering such a program…!

Going back to the objective at hand, let's start with a brief listing of cities that offer bike-share programs:

Bay Area Bike Share Program

– covers San Jose, Palo Alto, Mountain View, Redwood City, San Francisco; Pricing: Annual = $88, Annual with monthly payments = $99; 3-day = $22; 24-hours = $9, that includes 30-minutes free (if you are late returning the bike); 31-6 minutes additional is $4; 

Boston – the program name is The Hubway

The program offers over 100 stations and 1000 bikes; Available in Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville; Annual membership is $85; Monthly is $24; 3-day pass is $12 and 24-hour is $6;

Denver – the program name is Denver B Cycle 

This program has even more varied pricing / membership fee structure.  Annual = $80; 30-day = $30; 7-day=$24; 24-hours = $8 plus you have a fee of $4 for additional 30-minutes;  First 30-minutes are free (i.e. you have a grace period of 30-minutes to return the bike each time)

There is a long list of cities that offer programs – to name a few – Miami Beach, Austin, Minneapolis, Washington D.C., overseas locations – e.g. Hangzhou (China), Helsinki, Amsterdam, Paris, etc.  

I will be putting together a database of those.