The concept of public bikes, or bike share programmes, has been receiving an increasing amount of attention from transport policy makers and agencies internationally. From the most famous, Velib in Paris, to the most recent, Barclays (Boris’ Bikes) in London, and the largest, Hangzhou, in China, there are now more than 130 city bike share systems worldwide.These systems have been lauded as significant public transport projects in their own right, as well as important urban economic development, urban quality, public health, climate change and civil society interventions. They are usually local authority owned, fully automated and available 24/7 to all registered users, although small-scale, manual systems are important in many cities.
Based on an analysis (field and desktop research) of the London, Paris and China systems, and the personal experience (with partners) of setting up the first system of its kind in Africa (in Cape Town), this paper, presented at the Southern African Transport Conference (SATC) in 2011, considers the institutional, environmental, financial and cultural obstacles to implementing bike share systems locally (specifically, Cape Town). Such obstacles include the minimal bicycle infrastructure; theft and vandalism; compulsory helmet legislation; outdoor advertising by laws; and lack of public funding.
The paper also suggests ways in which these obstacles could be and have been overcome, and considers whether public bike schemes could play in cities such as CapeTown that have low levels of urban utility cycling.
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