I lived in Warsaw Poland from 2016 to 2019, and spent the first year ignoring the city’s Bikes-Sharing Program. It wasn’t easy, because they were everywhere: large racks of identical blue bikes, placed throughout the city, at shopping centres, transit stops, museums, major crossroads and institutions.
During my first year in Poland it never occurred to me to borrow one of these bikes. After all, I’d owned my own bike since I was six. Then one day it dawned on me: these bikes can be used to go one way. On a rainy morning, you can bus downtown, and then, if the sun comes out, you can bike home. If it’s a beautiful morning, but with rain in the forecast for the afternoon, you can use Bike-Share to get downtown, and not be stuck riding home in the event that it starts to pour rain. I was extolling this virtue of Bike-Sharing to a fellow Canadian living in Poland, and he said he’d gone a step further, changing his mode of transportation mid-way to work: with those first drops of rain, he would dock the bike and hop on the bus. Talk about low-commitment cycling!
Then one day it dawned on me: these bikes can be used to go one way.
With Bike-Sharing, you can bike to the train station to pick up your house guests, and then bus home with them and their luggage. Or take them and the luggage to the train in a cab, and then bike home. You can borrow an infinite number of bikes for your houseguests to do a bike tour of the city. And then if you want to go your separate ways, you merely dock the bikes and carry on with your day.
Veturilo, the Polish Bike-Sharing company, has a fleet of 4660 bikes and has operated since 2012. It employs an army of people managing the repairs, maintenance and even distribution of bikes throughout the city. Every bike has a quick-release seat, easily adjustable for the height of the particular rider. The bikes all have handle bar baskets, low crossbars, and wide cushy seats that suit a variety of riders. Membership is eight million people nationwide, and user fees are set to encourage short use: the first 20 minutes are free, one hour is less than fifty cents, and four hours is less than two dollars. Exceeding twelve hours is over 60 dollars.
I encourage Ottawa’s considerable cycling community to get behind the Bike-Sharing movement.
The rates are set to encourage people to re-dock the bikes promptly at destination and make them available to other people, rather than lock them up for the return trip. So, a half hour bike ride to work, followed by an eight hour stay, and another half hour ride home, would cost less than one dollar if you re-docked the bike, and then borrowed a new one at the end of the day. It would cost five dollars if you hung on to the bike while at work. Trying to hang onto the bike overnight becomes quite uneconomical.
I encourage Ottawa’s considerable cycling community to get behind the Bike-Sharing movement. They're not just for high heeled European fashionistas!
~ JANET MARK WALLACE is a regular blog contributor for Walkable Ottawa