Thursday, January 30, 2014

Bike-share system ready for installation

The equipment for Budapest's bike-share system, set for launch in April, is in the warehouse and ready for installation beginning next month.

According to the kerekagy blog, the 1,000+ bikes and 76 docking stations are being tested at a Csepel warehouse, and will be installed, regardless of weather, starting in February around central Pest and along the Buda-side riverbank. The Budapest Transport Center (BKK) promises that after a short testing period, Bubi will open to the public in April.

For local manufacturer Csepel, this marks a debut in the bike-sharing business. The bikes look great, but how well they will stand up in daily operations remains to be seen.

When I first looked at the video, I was surprised that the user directions on the docking stations were in Hungarian only. Afterall, BKK has said the system is for anyone who'd like to use a bike in Budapest.

However, BKK's cycling affairs officer Virág Bence-Kovács assured me that English translation is being developed, and will be displayed alongside the Hungarian by launch day. (Then she asked me to proofread the text -- so, be careful what you ask for.)

In the video, you can see that bicycles will also be used as Bubi's service vehicles. Special bikes with trailers will be deployed to take Bubi bikes to and from the repair garage, and also to redistribute bikes from full docking points to empty ones.

I don't know if this is an untried approach, but for the systems I've seen (Paris, London and Brussels), petrol-fueled trucks are used for this purpose. Bubi's zero-carbon approach is cool -- and I assume completely practical considering the system's relatively small service area.

It's interesting to note that the Bubi service bikes are a Hungarian novelty. They're string bikes, which feature a bizarre (and relatively expensive) drive system. Their inventor claims the string bike drive shifts more smoothly and is more durable than the chain drive. It looks like Csepel, which recently started manufacturing the string bike for the mass market, is using Bubi to popularise the product.

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