Utterly Unsexy: Gothenburg's Bike Share is the Opposite of VÃ©lib
Function over form - Greenstreet bikes are abandoned bikes repurposed.
Here's what Paris did right in setting up a city bike share program: versatile, sexy bikes and enough of them (1 for every 200 residents). The Vélib bike-share program is about to hit its 2-year anniversary and it is going strong, with more than 20,000 bikes (used for an estimated 26 million trips each year) and almost 1,500 stations. The program has even been extended into the Parisian suburbs. Compare that to Gothenburg's GreenStreet bike share system, with less than 60 bikes scattered across the city, a program which no one seems to know about, much less use. But wait - as with many things, there's an upside and a downside to Vélib's success as well as Greenstreet's slow start.
If you want to lock a GreenStreet bike while you have it you slide the cable through the red "occupied" slot; a cable through green means the bike is free to rent.
Commercial versus communal bike sharing
Outdoor advertising firm JCDecaux runs the Vélib bike share, and offered the program to the city two years ago as a carrot to sweeten its deal for Paris' outdoor real estate. And it is a sweet deal for the city, which takes any revenues from Vélib which JCDecaux picks up the tab for maintenance and operation. The downside is that Paris has turned over control of public real estate to a private company. In addition, last year when the time for contract negotiations came due, many media reports detailed the vandalism and destruction to Vélib bikes, in order, critics charged, for JCDecaux to negotiate better contractual terms. Vélib is a popular program, and also costs real money - an estimated $115 million in start-up and millions each year to run.
High tech, low maintenance
On the other side of the street is a program such as GreenStreet. After the (free) registration, a GreenStreet bike costs just $1.30 (10 Swedish crowns) to rent for 10 hours. To get a bike, you text the company the name of the bike you want (each bike has its own name - "Emil" and "Bella" are my favorites) and the company texts you back the number for the bike lock. When you are done, you once again text the company where you left the bike. It's that simple. So GreenStreet, which has gotten little advertising, is relatively unknown to its citizens. On the other hand, it's very low maintenance, and the bikes are actually a good way to recycle the abandoned and usually broken bikes the city recovers from apartment complexes and other areas each year.
Vélib has become a cultural phenomenon, and has helped reduce car trips and changed the mobility infrastructure of Paris. GreenStreet is a great idea waiting for riders. As Paris citizen and mobility expert Eric Britton puts it, each city will have to find a bike share model that works for its specific circumstances.
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