Tuesday, May 18, 2010

New Details on Budapest Bike Sharing

Plans for Budapest's planned bike-sharing scheme are getting more and more specific in the lead-up to next summer's launch. City Hall recently sent off a detailed proposal of the scheme to the European Commission as the next step in its bid for a subsidy. Here's how the scheme is shaping up:

The new system will include 1,000-1,100 bicycles and cover the most densely built-up central part of the city, roughtly bordered by the Nagykorut and flat parts of Buda near the river. The service area will encompass about seven square kilometers, with 60 docking stations in Pest and 13 in Buda. Stations will be dispersed about every 300-400m, a density in line with global best practice.

The cost of the system has been more precisely estimated now: HUF 1.32 billion (EUR 5 million). Based on City Assembly decision on March 31, the system will be installed and managed by the city-owned company Parking Ltd., whose main responsibility is enforcing Budapest parking policy.

Each docking station will have on average 22 bikes and will be installed on road space now used for car parking or on sidewalks. Bicycles will be rented on a self-service basis with bank cards, credit cards, chip cards or mobile telephones. The system will run 24 hours a day, the first 30 minutes will be free-of-charge, and then there will be incremental charging. Testing will begin in June 2011.

A recent article on the system from the Hungarian News Agency is here.


Bikeurious said...

Have those rocket scientists figured out how to prevent folks from stealing them yet? (i.e. the deputy mayor?)

Greg Spencer said...

With all the graft that's gone on at City Hall in recent years, I expect a number of these public servants will transition into careers in security consultancy. Their offices will be decorated with framed copies of their rap sheets and their mottoes will be, "How to Protect Your Property from Larcenous Scum Like Me!"

But to your question: the main technological advance of recent public bike systems has been in security: These systems require users to register with bank cards, and the subscriber is liable if the bike goes missing while he/she is using it.

Not that it makes them theft-proof. But it has drastically reduced the rate of theft. And the security is getting better with time. For instance, the system that will roll out in June in London has profited from some lessons of the one that came out in Paris (Velib) in summer of 2007.

There's also an inherent anti-theft feature in public bikes. They're really heavy and slow-going and, of course, very distinctive looking. One of the reasons Paris has had such a difficult time with theft is not because the bikes are so fun to ride but because poorer kids in the city see the public bikes as an emblem of bo-bo (bougoisie bohemian) culture, and so they're targeted by vandals.

polmarfi said...

It's just not possible to charge the same kind of fee's in Budapest as would work in West Europe. I saw recently that usage charges would work out the same as a BKV (BP public transport system) metro or tram ticket. That's already way too high at 320 forints. In realistic terms its equivalent to 3 euro for Hungarians. Another point is there is no tradition of good road manners in Budapest. Cars simply don't slow down either for pedestrians or Bike users. I certainly would never advise tourists to use a bike to get around. Taxi's are especially a danger to bike riders. Trolley buses are a law unto themselves (I speak from experience by the way). Saddest of all is that the scrap metal value of the bikes will represent the only source of income for the huge amount of poor people here. The Bikes won't be sold, just broken up and melted down. This ill thought out scheme is just another way of getting under the counter kickbacks for the political classes.

Greg Spencer said...

I obviously don't share this negative view. You seem to be arguing not only against the bike-sharing system but the general idea that bicycling can work as a mode of transport in Budapest. The evidence of the last five years is an obvious refutation of that idea. More and more people are cycling in Budapest every season and by now, they're simply everywhere in the inner city. And in my experience, although there's certainly progress to be made, motorists are becoming year by year more tolerant and deferential of cyclists.

Bicycling is becoming more popular with tourists, as well. Today, there are several vendors in Budapest that rent bikes to tourists and at least one of them (Yellow Zebra) offers guided city tours on bike. So, while you might not recommend bicycling to tourists, this is one business in Hungary that's growing by leaps and bounds, even in a depressed economy.

polmarfi said...

Dear Greg,

I'm all for biking around the city to work and for pleasure. I'm sitting here now helping someone plan a bike to work scheme for their large multinational company.
I am just dead against this Bike Rental scheme that is just simply going to be too expensive for the people it should be helping. Also you yourself pointed out in your earlier comments about the corruption in this city. I don't have to point out to you that in all likelihood there is not going to be open and honest bidding for the contracts involved. I also wished to point out Budapest is not Paris or London. You don't see a lomtalanitas in London with hundreds of fridges with the freezer compartment ripped out for the scrap value. (I know because I'm from London). Imagine what a bike will be worth?
I believe there are much more practical ways to get people to use a bike to get around. I do not believe that at present a Velib type scheme would work in Budapest.