We Didn’t Start The Hire
Last summer Barclays Cycle Hire – London’s bicycle hire scheme – celebrated its third birthday. The scheme revolutionised London cycling and has become a much loved feature of the capital for both residents and visitors, with the bicycles and their distinctive blue mudguards becoming as common a sight as red buses and black taxis – something Mayor Boris Johnson had hoped for.
London has indeed become a city in love with two wheels – the hired bikes mingle with personally owned cycles as students and workers make their way around town. For those working as couriers the bike is their most important tool. And then there are all the active pursuits – from daily spin classes in health clubs to world class events such as the London Triathlon.
London is not the only cycling city however, and in fact it is not the only major centre to have its own bicycle hire scheme. There are around 535 such programmes in operation worldwide, representing a fleet of approximately 517,000 bikes combined. Here are some of the other cities operating bicycle hire schemes…
It was one month after Paris launched its Vélib scheme in July 2007 that then London Mayor Ken Livingstone announced that he wanted to replicate it in the Big Smoke. Mayor Livingstone discussed the scheme with his Parisian counterpart and instructed transport officials to conduct a study. Today Vélib has approximately 14,000 bicycles and 1,230 stations around the French capital, compared to London’s 10,000 bicycles and 720 stations. Paris is not the only French city with a bicycle hire scheme – you will also find them in Dijon and Montpellier.
Nor is London the only British city where bikes can be hired on the go. A network of schemes operated by a company called Hourbike exists in Blackpool, Dumfries, Lincoln, Northampton, Nottingham, Reading and Southport.
When talking about London and Paris, it’s only natural that the conversation moves to New York and the Big Apple is one of the most recent arrivals on the bicycle hire scheme scene. Launched in May 2013, the Citi Bike programme has 6,000 bikes at 330 stations in Manhattan and parts of Brooklyn – with plans to more than double that fleet and roll out across all of Brooklyn as well as extending to the borough of Queens. New York’s is the biggest scheme in the USA, but programmes are also operated in a number of other cities including Boston, Chicago, Denver, Minneapolis and Washington.
Other European cities – some of which were also studied by London authorities – to operate bicycle hire schemes include Barcelona, Berlin, Dublin, Moscow, Oslo, Stockholm and Warsaw.
In South America, the countries of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Ecuador have embraced the bike hire scheme. The Argentinian capital Buenos Aires has a system of 1,250 bicycles, while future Olympic host Rio de Janeiro has 600 bikes on its Bike Rio scheme.
In Asia, unsurprisingly China – where bicycles have been a popular mode of transport for many years – is among the countries to have hire schemes. The capital Beijing’s scheme launched in 2012 and programmes also operate in Hangzhou, Shanghai and Suzhou. India, Iran, Israel, Qatar and Taiwan are among other Asian countries to have schemes available in different shapes and sizes.
And in Australia Melbourne’s MBS and Brisbane’s CityCycle schemes both operate under a mandatory helmet requirement – it is believed that these two are the only such schemes in the world that carry this requirement.
If you confidently cycle in London and find yourself visiting any of the above cities soon, remember you can keep up your cost effective and eco-friendly routine there too – all thanks to the rise of the bicycle hire scheme.