02 October 2009

World's Worst Bike Share Programme

Worlds Stupidest Bike Share System
There is a lot of talk about which bike share programme is the best - Bixi, Vébib, Velov, Bicing, etc - but what about the worst?

I think I found the answer on a visit to Capitol Hill, in Washington, DC.

Wheels4Wellness
. Appropriately, the World's Worst Bike Share Programme has a goofy name.

Now I like the use of bicycles as a symbol. More bicycles on the streets, more bicycle pictograms on bike lanes, cycle tracks and other dedicated infrastructure, as well as on streets and so on are important symbols to show that bicycles are back and are here to stay.

It's basic visibility and branding.

The 30 bikes in the Wheels4Wellness programme are available to people working on the House side of the Capitol. They are available at six locations and you can use them for up to 12 hours. At this point it sounds reasonable.

But.

To sign up for the programme you can register at the House Staff Fitness Center [presupposing, perhaps, that only fitness freaks would consider using them?].

Accessibility is the main want. To borrow one for a quick trip to lunch or a meeting involves going over one location to get a key and then walking back to one of the locations to pick up a bike.

There's goes your lunch hour right there. And in the photo above you can see that access is no easy task. The bikes are in a parking lot. I couldn't even get in to see them. You have to walk down to the entrance to the lot and then back up.

The actual bicycles look fine enough but then again, it's just a bicycle so it's hard to screw THAT part of it up.

It's hardly surprising that the lack of popularity of the programme was leapt upon by other politicians.

I've heard conflicting reports about the scheme. One was that the people responsible didn't want to utilize the Smartbike programme because they had a deal with a bike company named Trek. The other report was that after the programme was launched, they contacted Smartbike DC and asked to be a part of it but were refused.

Whatever the case, the programme gets Copenhagenize's vote for World's Worst Bike Share Programme. Difficult to use, limited user group, inaccessible, a name that lacks spice and branding.

It's not like this was a pioneer initiative. There are dozens and dozens and dozens of bike share systems in cities around the world. It is quite easy to at the very least adhere to the basic concept of bike sharing.

8 comments:

Kevin Love said...

Crazy!

Contrast this with the City of Toronto's bike share program for City employees on City business.

This is mainly going to meetings at various locations in downtown Toronto. The City is very flat downtown, so they went for basic Batavus single-speed bikes. With minimal hassle to get one.

Actually, it is far harder to get a car from the car park at City Hall.

Details at:

http://www.curbside.on.ca/blog/?p=592

Anonymous said...

Montreal uses Bixi and they're getting contracts in U.S. to supply the service. I think Bixi's grat.

String Bean Jen said...

Aww, this makes me sad. :-( Lonely bicycles just sitting there behind a big fence, waiting for someone to take an interest them. They're blue too, crying raindrop tears of loneliness!

RatherBeBiking said...

WUT? Bixi? I don't exactly see people falling over eachother to give Bixi a gold star.

Double parking in bike lanes in NYC, ties to blood money gold mining in Africa... yeah, not exactly what I want in a bike share company.

Jass said...

They couldnt get smartbike at the capital because clearchannel doesnt want to expand. Other developers and even cities have requested a station, and even offered to pay for it, by clearchannel said no - they dont want to deal with the system.

Paul said...

There is a common misconception about bike-sharing programs. Bike-sharing is bike transit which is generally open to the public. Wheels4Wellness is an employer bike fleet for employees of the House of Representatives and used likely as much as any other employer bike fleet. It's not a fair comparison between a bike-sharing program which is intended for mass consumption and an employer fleet which is intended for a few hundred employees, as they have different purposes and potential users.

In addition, the advertising model of bike-sharing, such as Clear Channel's SmartBike DC, is not designed for organizations "buying-in" as the contract is between the advertising company and the locality. This option presently is not available in DC and it's possible that no bike-sharing programs have done this before.

Mikael said...

i seem to recall that 40 people used the bikes in the first year.

that makes it ridiculous. it's a bike share programme no matter how you spin it. a fleet of bikes available to a group of people.

some work. this one doesn't.

Mark said...

Interesting comments about Bixi on here - these are the people who have won the contract to supply the infrastructure for London's bike hire scheme, launching next year. It's going to be run by CERCO, our favourite garbage collection group! Haha... Hope they deliver a good system with good (rideable!) bikes....

So far as these DC bikes are concerned I think this is what PR types would call a 'greenwash' - you have a bike sharing scheme so that you can boast about your green credentials, but you make it so damn difficult and impractical to use that it doesn't cost you any money in maintenance and running costs. Result - positive PR for 0 output. Very sad indeed.