Bicycles have clearly been a major mode of transportation in cities around the world for decades—especially in Europe. Nothing new about that. But with each great idea comes a few new problems to solve. For example: theft, maintenance, safety, storage, and more. But those problems are becoming a thing of the past with the latest version of Bike Sharing. The third generation systems are successfully in use around the world. And, the fourth generation is arriving soon!
We got the chance to test the idea while recently staying in Lyon, France. All we can say is—DELIGHTFUL! Never needing a car is really worth trying sometime. With easy access to trains, the metro, trolleys, buses and now Rent-a-bike—getting around is a snap. It’s all automated. And, believe it or not, no fights are breaking out over whose turn it is!
Bicycle Sharing has quite an interesting history. The first attempt at such a crazy scheme was in Amsterdam in 1965 and was called “White Bike,” because all 50 of them were painted white. How clever! They were left permanently unlocked for free public use. It was a great idea, although overly optimistic. Every last one was stolen or damaged, and the program failed within one month after it’s launch! From that shaky beginning and many other failed attempts, we have come a long way. In 2009, London-based designer Chiyu Chen created a model that actually stores the pedal power in the form of electricity, which can then be fed back into the main power grid. How cool is that? Before we know it, entire cities may be energized by people pushing bicycle pedals.
So, here we are nearly 50 years after the start of this noble experiment, and we’re happy to say that the technology has been perfected worldwide, with most systems in France, Spain, China, Italy and Germany. China actually has the largest fleet with 61,000 bikes, and 2,400 rental stations. Yikes, that’s a lotta bikes! Let’s face it—bikes are a BIG deal these days! Can you think of any other idea where people easily get where they need to go; all the while getting great healthful exercise; naturally reducing pollution as traffic snarls are minimized. And, as a special bonus, we can sell our own “energy” at the end of the day to reduce the demand on power production plants? And voila, as they say in France—our world is a little bit better place to live. Somehow we always suspected that people power would lead the way!
Note: You may also be interested in some of our other stories about Lyon.