Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Bucharest launches city-bike scheme
Cicloteque is the name of Europe's latest municipal city-bike scheme, launched the first part of August in Bucharest. With just 100 bikes, it's much more modest in scale than the widely publicised schemes of cities such as Paris, Barcelona and Lyon -- yet it's encouraging to see a progressive step taken in a fellow new member state of the EU.
I wrote an earlier post on the possibility of Budapest getting a similar scheme rolling. http://cyclingsolution.blogspot.com/2008/07/free-bikes-in-budapest.html
The service is marketed as a means of transport, providing an alternative to cars and public transportation. It was created by the NGO Mai Mult Verde http://www.maimultverde.ro (director Dragos Bucurenci pictured left at Cicloteque's launch event) and UniCredit Tiriac bank. The first batch of 100 bikes was installed at the campus of the University of Bucharest. To use the bikes, you have to first pay an annual registration fee of 100 Lei (EUR 30) and an hourly 2 Lei (EUR 0.50) or daily 20 Lei (EUR 5) usage fee.
Mai Mult Verde's stated purpose was to improve urban mobility in the congested capital and to protect the environment. Bucharest has 1.2 private cars, which emit an estimated 125 tonnes of lead every year.
Just as Paris's Velib is financially backed by a commercial partner (JC Decaux advertising firm) Cicloteque got its money from a commercial partner who saw the venture as a good publicity tool. The local branch of Unicredit bank put up 100% of the initial investment of EUR 150,000, which covered the purchase of 100 bikes, the cost of the launch event, as well as the installation of 20 bike racks throughout Bucharest (The racks are just for short stops -- so far, the only place you can pick up and drop off bikes is at Cicloteque's single depot on the university campus.)
Just three weeks after the system's launch, there are 200 subscribers, according to Miruna Cugler, communications manager at Mai Mult Verde. Plans for the future include more bikes and more depots around the city.
In addition, Mai Mult Verde plans to lobby for more bike paths and routes around the city. At present, Bucharest has just a few bike paths, most of which are swarming with pedestrians and other users. The poor quality and quantity of paths mean that urban bike users have to jostle with motor traffic to get anywhere, a situation familiar to cyclists in Budapest.