Friday, January 30, 2009

(Harrisonburg, Pay Attention) The Wonders of City Bike Systems

There is now a nice, green policy that is being followed in as many as 21 European cities that is not yet being followed in a single US one that I am aware of, having just googled a bunch on the matter. It is a city bike system, also sometimes generically called a "Velib" system after the very popular and famous one in Paris that began in 2007. However, while it is doing very well (see the Wikipedia entry for "Velib" about it), it has some oddities that may make it less desirable for cities in the US thinking of adopting such a system, it being run by a private company for the city.

Probably the oldest running, since the 1970s, and the best run is the one in Copenhagen, where nearly 40% of trips are now done by city bike. The city (actually through a non-profit organization) owns bikes that are kept in parking stands. In Paris they make you pay a subscription, and then you can access the bikes, which are locked up in their stands. In both the stands are all over the city, but in Copenhagen they are free. You just pull one out and ride it to another stand. Reduces traffic, improves health, reduces pollution, and any city in the US would look very cool and progressive and innovative if it were the first one in the country to do it. The bikes tend to be three speed and pretty tough with a good-sized basket in front. The biggest problems have been with car traffic, and in Copenhagen, with cars turning right and not paying attention to bikes coming up. Anyway, a nice link about the Copenhagen system.


chiggins said...

SmartBike in DC.

BruceMcF said...

The problem with bikes coming up and passing turning cars on their right is either a problem in poor training of cyclists or poor design of cycle lanes, so that they continue all the way to an intersection to the right of a turn lane.

As a regular cycle commuter, I can say categorically that cars do not ever have to worry about hitting me while making a right turn, because the law for vehicles of whatever type in Ohio is not to pass on the right hand side of another vehicle.

media said...

i think the older method used in harrisonburg area---the buggies and horses---is preferable-- especially for their effect on what transportation economists term 'traffic calming'.

Dirk Helbing has even shown you can generate solitons with this method, which are useful for research (and perhaps that city m might volunteer to be part of a research trial?). others find bose-einstein condensates in traffic. (i guess one can keep going...or, with mckinsey to the frictionless flows of world finance (sans tobin tax))

(course, other things heat up ('road rage'), so there is, by Noether's theorem a conservation law for calm (in the long run we're all dead) but you can allus call talk radio to let off steam---an example of 'supply creates its own demand' or 'ricardian equivalence'.)

Barkley Rosser said...


Thanks for the tip. I checked it out and it appears that smartbike run by Clear Channel One is the first such system in the US. They operate the ones in several European cities including Rennes, France and Barcelona, Spain. It is a self-rental system with locks on the parking sites, with many scattered around downtown D.C.

So, Harrisonburg, VA can be second in the US.


Of course, not all bicyclists obey the law all the time.


I am a big fan of Dirk Helbing's models. Lately he has gotten into looking at self-forming patterns in urban pedestrian flows.