Last week, Getabout the “sustainable transport partnership” of NESTRANS asked if it was time for a “Boris Bikes Scheme for Aberdeen?” … well at Moved to Comment we are in favour of anything that helps increase the take up of cycling as a mode of transport, but as ever we like to scratch the surface and see what lies beneath the media releases 😉
For those who aren’t familiar with them these bike here schemes involve placing bikes at bike stations from where members of the scheme (who pay an annual membership) can hire them and then ride them to another station and leave them there. Journeys under 30 minutes are typically free, with a hire charge for periods beyond that.
Getabout state that the bike hire scheme in London has “been a brilliant success” – well it certainly looks like its been a brilliant success for private outsourcing company SERCO who will trouser £140 Million for running the scheme for 6 years. Not all been plain trousering for SERCO though as Transport for London recently withheld £5 Million payments after it emerged that 15,000 users had been overcharged. It does appear to be getting a lot of people cycling in London though, which is great.
In Paris, Dublin and Brisbane, JCDecaux – perhaps better know as purveyors of advertising laden street furniture – also run bike hire schemes. We were impressed by the facilities of the Brisbane CityCycle scheme and were going to blog about it back in January 2011 but then the rains came down and the river rose and the floods came to the capital of the Sunshine State, so we let that one go … here’s a pre-flood shot of CityCycle Station 92 at the Thornton Street Ferry with bikes ready for action :
Note the bikeway right next to these bikes – Brisbane already had a good network of well used bikeways in place prior to the CityCycle Scheme getting off the ground and plans to have 150 cycle stations. As with everything there is political controversy around such schemes but perhaps the ultimate success metric for a bike hire scheme is not in the revenue but the number of people it gets cycling. Someone who hires a bike a few times may well like it and decide to buy their own bike or resurrect an old one that’s been lying forlorn in the shed for years. We note with interest the figure of AU$8.2 Million for CityCycle budget for 4 years which seems good value compared to the cost of the scheme in London, although we believe that JCDecaux get rights to street advertising in Brisbane as part of their deal there. [We will try and dig out more info on the relative costs for schemes on a per bike / bike station basis].
A recent article in The Guardian (4th Aug 2011) reports that the bike hire scheme in Dublin has 58,000 subscribers and has had 2.2 million bike hires which is very impressive. The 10 Euro membership fee for the Dublin scheme seems very reasonable.
Back to Aberdeen … would a bike hire scheme work in the Granite City? Possibly. The city is certainly compact enough for cycling to be a viable mode of transport – as to whether people would pay to hire bikes rather than buy their own, not sure. For real mass cycling to take off, there would need to be some strategic investment in infrastructure to encourage cyclists to saddle up and a lot of driver education to make those inside the little metal boxes realise that the folks on the bikes are all someone’s daughter / son / mother / father / wife / husband / friend / relative and they live, breathe, bruise and break just like everyone else. Give them space, give them respect, give them time.
Aberdeen City Council aren’t exactly falling over themselves in making the city centre cycle friendly. For example consider the current plan to make Justice Mill Lane – currently a quiet alternative to Union Street for cyclists – a one-way street without contraflow cycle access. The Aberdeen Cycle Forum comment that “the proposed changes are yet another example of the council ignoring the “transport hierarchy” of Pedestrians, Cyclists, Public Transport, Private Vehicles defined in the Scottish Government planning policy“, yet the council apparently plough on regardless. Perhaps if Aberdeen’s Lord Provost left the civic car in the garage and followed the example of London’s Lord Mayor Boris and got on his bike things would start to change 😉
Transformational schemes such as the Woonerf proposed by Other Aberdeen could unlock the true potential of existing infrastructure and facilitate new connectivity within the city paving the way for a new more cycle-friendly – no, lets make that more human-friendly – city centre for the 21st Century.