By Katerina Im, Bikeshare Hawaii Intern
Over the last decade, bike sharing has taken off in cosmopolitan cities across the world. Biking itself has numerous health and environmental benefits, and bike sharing is convenient and cost effective. As of 2021, there were over 3,000 programs across the world and that number has continued to grow.
Based in Brazil, Tembici is the largest bike sharing company in Latin America. Tembici operates in three countries: Brazil, Argentina, and Chile, and has 18,800 bikes. This successful company has been popular among South Americans due to its “comfort” aspect. In 2022 study, 39%* of Tembici users cited “comfort” (convince) as their main reason for using the bike sharing system. One of the benefits of bike sharing is that riders do not have to pay outright for a bike, for maintenance, or storage. Another striking fact the study found was that percentage of usership among female Tembici riders was 38%* higher than the average percentage of female cyclists in countries where Tembici operates. Many women expressed their affinity towards safeness of the bike sharing program.
Additionally, Tembici’s success can be attributed to its partnerships with other companies in their community. iFood is a food delivery company, similar to BiteSquad, that works with Tembici in Brazil to use 2,500 bikes for their services. Tembici hopes to expand its network of riders and wants to add 10,000 bikes by the end of the year.
Bike sharing’s popularity only rose in the recent decades, but was actually invented in Amsterdam in the 1965. The world’s first bike sharing program was called the Witte Fietsenplan (the White Bicycle Plan). The Witte Fietsenplan was started by a group of young activists who painted some bikes white and left them around the city for people to use free of charge. The white bikes were a symbol of protest against the growing number of cars in Amsterdam. Cars caused air pollution, burdened the city’s unfit infrastructure, and made streets dangerous for children to play in. However, the original Wittee Fietsenplan did not turn out to be successful because the bikes were quickly removed by police and Amsterdam’s city planners did not see biking as “the future.”
Today, there are multiple bike sharing programs in Amsterdam and 38% of all trips in the city are taken by bike (both personal and through sharing programs).
In many African cities, air pollution is a major health and environmental concern. In the hustle and bustle of the cities, traffic can get heavy and many of the cars on the road are older models, which emit more pollutants.
Kigali, Rwanda just launched its first bike sharing program in partnership with Guraride in 2021. Guraride started out with 80 bikes and hopes to expand their program. To increase ridership and get the residents of Kigali accustomed to bike share programs, Guraride offers the first 30 days of their membership free.
Kigali hopes to use biking and bike sharing as a method to reduce carbon emissions and pollution in their city. There are plans to increase the length of bike lanes, making biking a safer and more viable transportation option in the city.
China is infamous around the world for its air pollution. To combat their poor air quality and heavy traffic, the Chinese government and private companies invested large amounts of money into clean transportation over the last decade. Bike sharing blasted China’s urban streets starting in 2007, but by 2019 the bike sharing bubble burst and bike graveyards became prevalent. There were too many bikes and not enough users in Chinese cities.
Despite its massive failure, bike sharing has come back to China, but on a smaller and more carefully planned out scale. The more “thoughtful” bike sharing programs have shown success, especially with the help of AI in placing bikes/docks in locations with high biking demand. Additionally, electric bikes are being introduced to the bike share mix, making long distance biking easier. During the pandemic, biking has become more popular among Chinese citizens because it avoids the risks of catching illnesses on public transportation.
Similar to China, bike sharing in Australia also saw difficulties. Bike sharing programs dealt with problems of having too many bikes, not enough users, stealing, and bike littering. Many programs in Australia used the method of dock less biking, where users can simply park their bikes at bike racks or along sidewalks. While dock less biking may seem like a convenient idea, it also causes a lot of vandalism and stealing. Australia also has harsh helmet and bike laws with significant fines that may scare away potential bikers.
Certain bike share companies left Australian cities, but others are starting up on a smaller scale. There is also hope that e-bike systems will be more popular in Australia.
In 2013, the Citi Bike program, part of Lyft, was launched in New York City and has grown to be the largest bike sharing system in the U.S.. After the height of the pandemic, Citi Bikes have grown even more popular among New Yorkers and the company cannot keep up with the demand. New York City has a goal to increase the size of the fleet from 24,000 to 40,000 bikes by the end of 2024.
New Yorkers love bike sharing because it is a convenient, environmentally-friendly, and fast option. Traffic in New York is always extremely bad, so in many instances, biking can be faster than driving. NYC is also making it easier and safer for bikers by adding more bike lanes— both regular and protected.
Not all residents are liking the rise in bikers, however. The expanded bike lanes compete with outdoor dining spaces, complaints from drivers, and fewer parking stalls. However, overall, both New Yorkers and their government officials are looking to bike sharing as an integral part of the future of clean transportation in the most populated city in America.
Of course, in Hawaii, we have our own bike sharing program— Biki! With 130 stations, Biki provides a great “green” and convenient way to travel throughout downtown Honolulu. Whether you are a local or a tourist, include Biki as a part of your transportation plan to travel around the city of Honolulu.
Guest Blogger: Katerina Im is a rising Senior at Punahou School. She is very passionate about environmental issues and is especially interested in climate change and plastic pollution. Learn more about her non-profit, Plastics 4 A Purpose.