Wednesday, August 5, 2009

April Streeter reports on 50,000 public bikes in Hangzhou

Here you will find a bit of lively four continent viral reporting, rounding up news from numerous sources on the Hangzhou, China public bike project that has most of us non-Chinese speaking observers blinking in ignorance.

- April Streeter reporting from Gothenburg Sweden

Powering Past Paris, Hangzhou Will Have 50,000 Bike-Share Bikes

Tucked at the end of this great post about Hangzhou, China at the blog Code for Something was some pretty big news about the city's bike share. Hangzhou, with roughly the same number of inhabitants as Paris, is planning to whiz by the City of Lights (which has approximately 20,000 Vélib bike share bikes) by beefing up its offering from 16,000 to 50,000 bright orangey-red bikes by year's end.

Solving the 'final kilometer' puzzle

Tracing back to Paulo De Maio's Bike-Sharing blog for some more information, it seems the Hangzhou Public Transport Corporation set up the city's bike share scheme last year to aid, according to "seamless connection of bicycle-based slow-speed traffic with metro and bus-based public traffic facilities," said Huang Zhiyao, general manager of Hangzhou Public Transport Corporation (HPTC).

Higher daily usage than Vélibs

The story goes on to describe how citizens and tourists alike have taken to the bike share scheme, which (even better than Vélib) offers users the first full hour of service for free. After that the next hour costs a modest one yuan ($.15), two yuan for the following hour and three yuan for every additional hour up to 24 hours. Hangzhou bikes don't have the flair of Vélib but are definitely serviceable, with plastic front baskets, a bike skirt, and a bell. By March of this year, the service was claiming each bike was used an average of 5 times daily. While it aims to be tourist friendly, it may take up to 10 days to get the bike deposit back for travelers.

But what, no vandalism?

In the most incredible piece of information in the story, HPTC claims that not a single bike has been stolen in the service's first year of operation, and very few bikes (0.5%) are damaged or vandalized. Contrast that with the tale of woe told by JCDecaux, Vélib's operator, which claims that at least half of the original Vélibs were stolen, wrecked, or defaced. HPTC puts users who do not return bikes onto a black list and they are denied the ability to be part of the system for life! Pretty harsh.

Better technology than Vélib

HPTC claims that it has simplified the rental process compared with European bike share systems, by installing simpler POS systems that makes it easier for a user to end a rental and reportedly reduces rental time from about five minutes to just one minute, HPTC said. HPTC plans to become economically solvent by putting advertisements on
the bikes and at bike return spots.

To get more information on the Hangzhouz bike share, try going here to the (challeging but amusing) official site of the program and translate using Google Translate -

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In this slot at the end of contributed articles, we generally try to place a few sober words that will permit our readers to know a bit about the author. But this time the temptation is too great, so now you have a short bio note in April's own words.

"April is a former bilingual cocktail waitress who left the warm beaches of Hawaii to pursue an upstanding career as reporter on the new and exciting digital world for MacWEEK magazine in San Francisco. When she finally couldn't stand the thought of writing about one more wireless local area network router, she recast herself as an environmental and sustainability journalist for Tomorrow magazine in Stockholm, Sweden. A few years later, she escaped the Scandinavian chill to become editor of Sustainable Industries magazine in Portland, Oregon. But eventually, the lure of endless months of darkness and sleety rain beckoned her back to Gothenburg, Sweden where she today is a freelance writer and Hatha yoga teacher forever on the lookout for a good/local/organic/sustainable/fair trade Swedish burrito."

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