Cycling Edinburgh’s Short Items

  • 01:37:19 am on February 8, 2008 | 0

    Editorial by Carlton Reid, Editor of UK trade magazine Bike Biz (Feb 2008)


    2007 was a weird year. It was wet for much of the summer, yet cycle use in urban areas didn’t sink.

    In London, cycle use continues to sky-rocket despite the fact that it’s still a nightmarish place to ride a bike. For all the millions pumped into cycling by Ken Livingstone, there’s not been a huge change in infrastructure. Much of the increase in cycling is down to providing information about cycling and shouting about it from the roof-tops.

    Londoners have been bombarded with posters, bike adverts and bike events. As more cyclists join the fray, cycling becomes more visible, leading to more people becoming cyclists. Well, maybe not ‘cyclists’ – that’s not a label everybody wants to wear – but ‘people who just happen to ride bicycles’.

    And, by all accounts, cycling is soon going to become more visible than ever in the Capital. The finishing touches are being put to a Velib-style scheme that will be the biggest in the world. Last year Paris installed 20,000 Velib bicycles (standing for velo liberty, bicycle freedom) and the scheme has been a runaway success. During transit strikes, the world’s media reported that Parisians switched to Velib pedal power instead.

    London wants to have 40, 000 rental bikes on the streets, something that would transform London into a major cycling city pretty much overnight. London already has the OYBike scheme but this has less than 100 bikes. A bike rental scheme for the masses would enable cyclists to take over London, slowing down the motorised traffic, civilising the city.

    London isn’t alone. Copenhagen’s Bycyklen was started in 1995; Lyon has had its scheme – Vélo’v – for two years, and Dublin initiated its own scheme last year. Other cities are eager to jump on the bandwaggon, including San Francisco, Geneva, Barcelona, Rome, Portland, Chicago, Moscow, Washington, Sydney and, to service the Olympics, Beijing.

    Most of these cities get the bikes ‘free’ via deals with outdoor advertisers such as Clear Channel and JCDecaux. These companies pay good money for the robust rental bikes. The 22kg bikes used in Paris are sourced from Bikes Lapierre of France and Orbita of Portugal.

    Short-term city rental bikes aren’t taking sales away from bike shops, they’re turning newbies into ‘maybes’. Velib-style schemes create bike shop customers. Not straight away – it’ll be a slow burn, but there’s no better way to demonstrate cycling’s urban effectiveness than test rides. And 40,000 rental bikes is a lot of test rides.

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