31 October 2012

Goodbye Bycyklen

Taking Bike Sharing Literally
Goodbye, Bycyklen. After 17 years, Copenhagen's renowned bike share system is being pulled off the streets of the city for the winter - and it ain't coming back.

As we all know, La Rochelle, France was the first city to establish a permanent bike share system back in the mid 1970s. Sure, there were some hippie attempts in the 1960s) but Copenhagen's Bycyklen was the first system in a large city that involved a deposit system.

With a 10 or 20 kroner coin you could unlock a bike and ride off.

Nostalgia strikes quickly. The goofiest bicycles in history have only been gone for a few hours but I already miss them. I miss being late for a meeting or just wanting to get home and having to trail behind a wobbly Italian family of four happily enjoying the cycle tracks. The entire width of them. Until we reached an intersection or a wider stretch and I - together with 150 other Copenhageners - could overtake them.

I miss seeing them in the far reaches of the city - far from the zone in which you were allowed to ride them - the coin slot pried open with a crowbar and the map peeled off.

I miss thinking of how they were repaired and cared for by prisoners at the bike workshop at a local prison (at least in the early days) and how that was such a wonderful idea.

But hey. The big picture story is good. These crappy bikes inspired the concept. They led to over 450 cities implementing bike share systems in various forms and transforming the urban landscape for the better.
14:10 - 19 Copenhagen Minutes
The plan was that Copenhagen would innovate and create Generation 3.0 of bike share systems. A plan that would show the world that we are ahead of the curve. A design competition was launched. 127 entries were recieved. A tender was put out later. Companies bid. Three were shortlisted.

And then City Hall pulled the plug. Just a month ago. The new, world-beating bike share system in The City of Cyclists scheduled to be launched in 2013 simply died.

Money could be better spent on other bicycle initatives, they said. All the vision and drive was flushed down the toilet. Every modern city worth their salt in this age has a bike share system. It's like water or electricity.

Sure, everyone owns a bicycle in Copenhagen, but our politicians are helpless to reduce car traffic and, in many ways, are encouraging more of it. A bike share system - in a design that would make all others look as goofy as the original Bycyklen - would have kept us at the forefront of innovation and visionary future planning. As well as providing a necessary, modern service for the citizens and visitors to the city.

But hey. Welcome to the New Copenhagen.

Sankt Peterburg - Colville-Andersen
I never actually rode one in Copenhagen. I don't know many people who have. The first time I tried one was actually in Saint Petersburg, back in 2009, where I was giving a talk arranged by the Danish Consulate - above. They were goofy to ride.

But now they're gone. Here are some photos I've taken of them over the years. Tourists and Copenhageners alike. Sigh. We get sentimental about the weirdest things, don't we. Like the days we had goofy shopping trolley bicycles and... visionary political leadership.

Tourist Bikes

Copenhagen City Bike

City Bike

City Bike and City Girl

14:11 - 19 Copenhagen Minutes

Tourist Test Drive

Free City Bike

6 comments:

Henrik Vogel said...

they are gone?? I should have tried one. that is so sad. If copenhagen does not take a leading role in building a better city for cyclists, who will? come on copenhagen, you can do better than that!

Miles Bader said...

Hmm, I don't think those bikes are goofy-looking at all ... indeed, I think they're pretty cool looking.

I don't think I'd want to be in a crosswind with those white solid wheels, but they certainly look neat...

Henrik B. said...

Is there any public source for this?

It surprises me, that neither http://www.bycyklen.dk/dansk/nyhederhistorie.aspx nor http://www.kk.dk/FaktaOmKommunen/Presse/Nyhedsliste.aspx?m=&y=2012&c={E2747A3E-EEBA-413F-81E9-727651B5789F} mentions this at all, but perhaps the city is trying to sneak them out the rear door?

Henrik Bøgh said...

Actually I just read in today's Jyllands-Posten (page 10) that the city bike stay on the street until new years eve. I'm guessing that some people will get out and pick up those 22 kg of memorabilia, and that the city hall won't have to pick up as many bikes as might expected :)

ubringliten said...

I visited Copenhagen a year ago and took one to explore the city. I thought they were the most terrible bike I have ever ridden. Single speed and super heavy. And my wife at 5'4" couldn't fit on any of them. Also, I have one person trying to take my bike away while having brunch. Luckily we were sitting outside and caught the person. Then at another time, it was stolen from me while we were eating lunch inside.

I hope you guys will one day have the best system in the world since you started all of this. Best of luck.

bbbbb said...

According to danish newspaper Politiken there will be a bycykel in the future ,a replacement is ready next year.
http://politiken.dk/indland/ECE1801151/koebenhavn-er-atter-i-cykelsadlen/