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Coloured paved bike lanes were used often for visibility. Changwon, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Coloured paved bike lanes were used often for visibility. Changwon, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 A short visit to Changwon in South Korea last October left a few impressions. 

The City government’s website speaks towards the city’s desire to be a very green city and model for other cities to follow.  The Mayor is committed to that.  Want to hear him speak on this?  Then come to the Velo-city Global 2012 Conference in Vancouver June 26 to 29, 2012 where he will be a Key Speaker.

Some of the first impressions of the city in the urban core were streets with green canopies from lines of trees along streets, very wide sidewalks, and the network of separated bike lanes.  As I walked along the streets, the public bike system then took my attention.

Public Bike Share System Well Used by Locals
This is the first city where I saw the activity level at that of the Vélib’ system in Paris or the Vélo’v system in Lyon.  Bike stations were only one-third full with   bicycles.  Young school adults were walking up to the stations in groups of two, three, and four taking out bikes and then continuing their conversations while cycling away at a pleasurable pace.  Senior women were cycling on their public bikes from stores with their daily purchases in racks on front of the bikes.  Senior men were cycling deep in thought to their destinations.
 

Public bike share cyclist cycling behind another cyclist. Changwon, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Public bike share cyclist cycling behind another cyclist. Changwon, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

  Public  bicycles did not disappear from the streets with onset of darkness.  Like Paris,  their use continues during the night.  Integration of these bicycles with the transit system is important here.  Some stations are located by bus stops in higher density residential areas allowing for the last leg of a trip or the first to be completed by bicycle.  Their Nubija Bike System (“Nearby Useful Bike, Interesting Joyful Attraction“) was introduced in October, 2009 with the aim of contributing to an eco-friendly urban environment.  In fact, one can cycle one of these bicycles down a main road right beside large community garden plots.

Countdown traffic lights by using illuminated chevrons. Changwon, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Countdown traffic lights by using illuminated chevrons. Changwon, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

  Tourists and Public Bike Share: A Challenge
As a visitor, the system is unfriendly.  No plugging in your credit card with the magic chip into the card reader at public bike stations.  The system is not set up for visitors, only inhabitants or local workers.  As a visitor, one needs to find one’s way to city hall.  Then one is told to go to a municipal office.  Once one finds it, then a ticket can be purchased there. One is on the way to cycling on a public bike.  There is nothing spontaneous for visitors for using the public bike system.

 Changwon is a friendly place to cycle from the downtown core to the 

Bike lane by bus stop. Changwon, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike lane by bus stop. Changwon, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 neighbourhoods.  The city is well situated to spur cycling growth and the use of public bike.  The certainly have high expectations.  The downtown terrain is flat.  There are plenty of shopping destinations.  There are dedicated cycling facilities to use.

Under the canopies of deciduous trees, a wide promenade stretches along streetways with some form of physical separation from general traffic lanes used by motorized vehicles.  These medians are a prime place for trees.

Public bike work here as the downtown area has a cycling network that appeals to non-cyclists.  There are separated cycling facilities and bike lanes on streets.  Some bike lanes are even separated from both drivers and pedestrians by green medians.  Some cycling paths are physically separated from motorists but abut pedestrian ways.  Usually coloured surfaces designate the use of each path. 

Teenagers cycling. Changwon, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Teenagers cycling. Changwon, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Coloured Pavement Increase Cycling Lane Visibility
Visibility is important to make cyclists feel comfortable on the road.  Changwon has done its part.  Colour on designate cycling facilities is frequently used, no matter if the adjacent traffic are motorists or pedestrians.  Sometimes the bike lanes are coloured the full length, as well.

The intimidation of intersections has been reduced.  For pedestrians, there are frequent underpasses.  For surface crossing, there are countdown signals using arrows as the time display.  Bike lanes crossing over intersections are coloured for private drives, lanes, local, or arterial roads.
 

Road intersection downtown. Changwon, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Road intersection downtown. Changwon, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Even a quick visit makes one reflect on the slow way that North American cities are approaching their expectations of cycling mode share for the future with minimal annual investments in their infrastructure and their social marketing programs for cycling.  Changwon and other cities have more courage in investing significant monies into their cycling aspirations.  Money is always tight for municipalities and other levels of government.  The question may be by diverting health care funding to cycling infrastructure and social marketing for cycling, how much of the future health 

Sheltered bike rack across from public bike share stations. Changwon, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Sheltered bike rack across from public bike share stations. Changwon, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

  care costs can be reduced.  Front-end investments may be the way to avoid burgeoning health care costs, or at least delaying them for a decade or more.  For cities and other levels of government, it is a matter of transportation and especially liveable, sustainable, and green urban community policies that produce energetic, liveable cities with growing local economy and retailing.  It is a matter of revisiting these policies for the optimal benefit to people and their health.

Changwon is a city that is very similar in size and population to Calgary with 1 million residents and 743 sq. kilometres of land but that is where the similarities end.  This city is known for its heavy industrial industries.  While urban sprawl may be the way for many Korean cities, Changwon is an exception as it is a planned city since 1974 with many parks and gardens throughout the city giving it a different feel.

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The Seoul Ditch – Better Known as the Cheonggyechon Stream

Cheonggyechon Stream in downtown core of Seoul, South Korea. Uncovered after expressway torn down. This section of bubbling natural water offers walking stones for pedestrians to cross over to the other side 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cheonggyechon Stream in downtown core of Seoul, South Korea. Uncovered after expressway torn down. This section of bubbling natural water offers walking stones for pedestrians to cross over to the other side 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

  A place for commuting,  walking, exercising, thinking, reflecting, talking, resting, enjoying the arts, being entertained, and communicating with nature.

When I first arrived, I read or heard somewhere that the stream brings a wind of fresh air into the central part of the downtown core in Seoul.  And that was the first thing that I noticed as I took the steps from the street to the water’s edge.  I heard that the stream decreased the air temperature by a few degrees Celsius.  So, I also noticed that.

Looking down Cheonggyechon Stream with downtown skyline of Seoul, 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Looking down Cheonggyechon Stream with background downtown skyline of Seoul, 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 One has to salute the wisdom and foresight of the conceiver of this idea:   tear down an expressway that covered over an old stream that was then, very polluted and replace it with a linear park. 

As I walked the full length of the 8.3 km stream before it joins a river, I kept looking for fish.  Halfway to the river junction, my search ended as large fishes swam about.  If they are bottom suckers or fish that thrive in clean water, I do not know.

Eight Kilometre Stream with Character Changes Along the Way
One has to admire the creativity of the designer for this stream.  Can one find things to complain about? (Of course, as we are good at that.)  However, one must admire this new wonder of the world.   It combines all the elements that 

Various public art installations along the way, including sculpture of woman carrying a water jug. Cheonggyehon Stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Various public art installations along the way, including sculpture of woman carrying a water jug. Cheonggyechon Stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 makes it a complete design.  Elements of breathing fresh air, exercise, sports, the arts from visual to sensual, performance, mosaics to statue, places to sit and think, relax, to listen to the city and its creatures, light as artistic expression and live art that changes regularly with new themes. 

It is a stream that changes character constantly from urban sterility to touches of rural trees and vegetation.  From new concrete pathways and walls of today, to rocks that cross the stream as bridges and have seen centuries behind them.  From bare concrete-faced walls to hanging natural, living wall cover that reflects the colours of autumn. 

Bike-pedestrian bridgfe further out from downtonw. Variety of areas along the Stream exhibit different personalities. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike-pedestrian bridge further out from downtown. Variety of areas along the Stream exhibit different personalities. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

This area of the stream and pedestrian walkway was devoted to a breast cancer fundraising event for a few days. Seoul,South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

This area of the stream and pedestrian walkways, was devoted to a breast cancer fundraising event for a few days. Seoul,South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 At lunchtime, the walkway is congested as any street in large cities.  At other times, it is not deserted as people walk, sit and contemplate, or exercise along the stream.  From formal exercise equipment to stretching along the path,  

Occasionally there are exercise machine installed for anyone to use by the stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Occasional fitness equipment installed for anyone to use by the stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

people do their thing.  Closer to downtown, pedestrians are occasionally joined on the too narrow walkways with a few cyclists. 

More Cyclists On Well-Designed Bike Path
However, further east there is a very well designed two-way bike path, coloured green with edge and centre lines, frequent cycling stencils and with street lighting for darkness.  The path sweeps down from a parallel street along the stream and continues out to the river.

The few cyclists in the downtown sections are now replaced with a continuous stream of cyclists of all ages – the old, the soon to be old, the ones making progress in their life, and the young.  Now commuting and exercising becomes the drive for cycling.  Some have bandannas covering their mouths.  Others have them close by, just in case.

Bike paths along Cheongyyechon Stream are generally well-marked for cyclists. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike paths along Cheongyyechon Stream are generally well-marked for cyclists. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

One of several pedestrian bridges crossing the Stream, each a different character. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

One of several pedestrian bridges crossing the Stream, each a different design. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike share system near Cheonyyechon Stream and bike path.  Located abit away from downtown to serve weekend cyclists. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Public bike share system by Cheonggyechon Stream and bike path. Located abit away from downtown to serve weekend cyclists. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Finally, I stumbled onto a public bike share system station, the only one I saw.  It is well positioned to service the weekend crowd that wants to go for a spin.

Cycling in the City
Downtown, a fair amount of cycling is done.  Much of it is on sidewalks although even in rush hours you see some cyclists taking up the inside traffic lane.  Some were in ordinary work clothes, others were in their spandex and helmets with their fancy bicycles.  Many had very utilitarian bicycles with a back rack and a high extension to put on too many goods for delivery.

In the urban core, the only cycling facility that I came across was a red coloured bike in front of the palace grounds where it was  too packed with touring buses and cars, not cyclists. 

Cycling on a bike path by the Stream  with the pet dog in side bike basket.  Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cycling on bike path by the Stream with the pet dog in side bike basket. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cyclists and electric wheelchair user out on a fall, crisp day. Some cyclists wear bandanas over their mouths --though it wasn't very cold nor smoggy. By Cheonggyechon Stream, bike path. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Cyclists and electric wheelchair user out on a fall, crisp day. Some cyclists wear bandanas over their mouths --though it wasn't very cold nor smoggy. By Cheonggyechon Stream, bike path. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 As one leaves the downtown core, then cycling facilities started to appear.  On the road paralleling the Stream, the one-way road has a bicycle lane on the left (not right) side, well-marked but not coloured.

There seems to be a good system of bike paths along the rivers, usually coloured.  In suburbia, coloured bike lanes on new roads appeared regularly.  Some were physically separated from motorists and pedestrians, others were not.  Bike paths  are also parallel to the main railway line and highway to the Incheon airport.

Jumping blue dolphin sculptural art work in the Stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Blue dolphin sculptural art work seems to jump-dance in the Stream. Seoul, South Korea 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Making Seoul a More Liveable, Shopping City
Priority number one, get the motorcycles and mopeds off the sidewalk. Step two, remove car and truck parking on sidewalks.  Then remove cyclists from sidewalks.  Follow the Paris lead.

With the Cheonggyechon Stream breathing more life into its downtown core now, the heart of Seoul becoming a more dynamic, lively place.

Further Reading:
TransLink.  Removing Freeways and Reforming Buses: An Interview with Dr. Kee Yeon Hwang President of the Korea Transport Institute.  In Buzzer Blog, Mar. 28, 2011.

Hand painted outdoor tile wall art, seen while walking along Cheongyyechon Stream 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Hand painted outdoor tile wall art, seen while walking along Cheonggyechon Stream 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

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Mix of cyclists, including a couple on right using blue bikes from city's public bike share system. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Mix of cyclists, including a couple on right using blue bikes from city's public bike share system. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Melbourne, just recently named the most liveable city in the world, wrenched that boasting right from Vancouver.  Vancouver, has now been relegated to the third rung, not the second.  A time for reflection as the world keeps on moving.  Status quo is not an operative word if one wants to be on the first rung.  If one wants to be the boaster.

Impressions Leaving its Airport
So, stepping off the plane after a two-night stop in Seoul, the question is what 

Interurban rail station connected to transit. Buses don't have bike racks yet. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Interurban rail station connected to transit. Buses don't have bike racks yet. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 makes this city so great to live in? No rapid transit line for one to take to downtown core, as is the case in Vancouver or Seoul. Just a high frequency bus service to the Southern Star railway terminal, that runs every 10 minutes, 24 hours a day. The bus is a specially configured articulating bus that wheels passengers through the 20 minute ride to the railway station. Not like Eugene Oregon’s bus. There is no space for bicycles on the bus. There is no cycling facility easily spotted that lets one cycle to the city. Maybe there is, but where?

Bike-pedestrian bridge. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Bike-pedestrian bridge. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Downtown Core For Shopping, Work, Not for Living  –Yet
The downtown  core, Melbourne’s prime real estate asset, is all about business and retailing.  It is all destination shopping and working, since there are no places for people to live.  Slowly, residences are being introduced into the city both downtown and also into the docklands as well as other small real estate properties that fall within the City’s boundaries.  Imagine, a city where the overnight inhabitants are primarily hotel guests. That is the City of Melbourne.

But Streets Alive with People
With 96,000 inhabitants at night, and 778,000 during the day, the city has a very active street life.  No matter if one is strolling along the pathway by the  

Melbourne Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 river flanked by retail outlets on the land side willing to feed your appetite or pacing yourself along the downtown shopping streets, one is not alone.  You are just an entity among a mass of people vying for sidewalk space.  Storefronts are open to streets as feet traffic brings warm cheer to merchants.  Some laneways have been populated with tables and chairs for serving food and drink, places where people now rule where cars were once here.  Slowly, streets are reconfigured and  squeezing our cars by only leaving essential service and delivery vehicles to do their job.  Instead, there are stream of pedestrians, cyclist, and tram riders with noise of conservation on the streets, instead of engine noise and pollution emitting from exhausts.

Streetcars in Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Streetcars in Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Impressions of this city:  It does  feel like nirvana when encountering one arterial street after another with ribbons of steel down the centre of the roads.  With motorists who do not enter the tram space, the steel network allows efficient and fast service through downtown.  Each tram swishes from stop to stop, carrying about 200 or 300 customers to downtown live.  An extensive network of metro trains brings in 1,000 people at a time from the proliferation of suburban homes.  Downtown life without cars is made possible by a high service tram network, supplemented by a dense network of cycling facilities, and also wide sidewalks.

Road Planning Under State Authority
With 4.1 million inhabitants, Metro Melbourne encompasses 30 municipalities.  The roads are not under the control of the municipalities, but of the state.  Joint planning is just a new word here.  Street priority and allocation of space may not meet the needs of City of Melbourne’s priorities.  Something to work on.

Inside interurban rail station. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Inside interurban rail station. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Commuter Cycling Facilities At Destination, But Not Multi-Modal –Yet
In Metro Melbourne, the vision for cycling seems to be providing a true capacity for people to embrace that mode of transportation to destination.  The vision does not seem to include combined mobility with transit beyond the most frequent European model of cycling, to a train station and leaving your bike there.  In fact, Parkateers or caged bike parking seems to be springing up in suburban train stations.  Suburban train cars may have the European design with place for bicycles but none are allowed.  Nor are they allowed on trams or buses.  No bike racks on buses here.  There is a punt or a bike ferry that makes its way across the Yarra River to allow faster commutes to the west.

Public Bike Share Run By Car Organization
A public bike system has emerged last winter.  Not widely used.  Elsewhere in cities where helmets while cycling are mandatory, the local helmet law is upheld as the public bike killer.  Locally, the story is different when listening to 

Melbourne's public bike share system run by a car organization. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Melbourne's public bike share system run by a car organization. Some lack of initial marketing and initiative driven by state authority, not under responsibility of municipality which contributed lower usgae at beginning. Helmet law was less of a factor. 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

  politicians and city staff.  It seems that there is a culture of wearing helmets while cycling in Melbourne.  If one forgets to wear one’s helmet one day, a passing motorist may just roll down the car window and remind you of that. Implementation of the scheme by the state, without consultation with the city emerges as an issue.
 
The system was introduced during the winter, with no spring advertising and marketing program.  The bike stations are not dense enough with a catchment area that would appeal to potential customers.  The stations are not located close enough to where potential customers want them.  The system is run by an automobile club that is not inspired to market the system nor make it a winner.  Nuisance is a word frequently heard instead.  Now back to the helmet.  Despairing remarks have been made that the provision and access to helmets was not well thought out.  One does not see briefcases on the street designed for carrying a helmet or backpacks with that provision.

Relaxing by river waterfront. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Relaxing by river waterfront. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 The city does have an extensive network of bike lanes for cycling the public bikes.  The philosophy seems to be squeeze in whatever you can without disturbing the movement of cars, the parking of cars, the stopping of trucks, or the stopping of cars all on bike lanes.  After all, for a metro area where comments have been made that there are more streets for car,s than in other cities, is this not what one would expect.  Sometimes when cars are lined up next to the bike lane, the lane is so wide that one needs to use the curb and push the bicycle forward in the less that half meter space.  On the positive side, there are designated spaces for cycling and the cycling lanes are painted green.  Will it encourage many motorists to cycle who are not the most confident or skilled?  I doubt it.

The network design toolkit is extensive with small catchment areas to the closest cycling facility.  The infrastructure design toolkit has any concept in it that one can find in any city.  The combined mobility toolkit is limited to cage parking at suburban train stations.  The social marketing toolkit is minimal, including bike to work day celebrations and cycling maps.

Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

 The most prominent design from infrastructure design toolkit that is evident on the streets, is the advance green painted stop boxes with bike stencils.  Beyond that, bike horizontal and vertical separation from cars with bike lanes, can be found easily. In new developments like the Docklands, more comprehensive designs can be found, along with bike signals.  However there, the bridges are not really intended for cycling.

Docklands has Potential
The Docklands is a stretch of waterfront lands that is being transformed from old industrial use to residential and commercial use.  Not bad. Though not to the level of European people streets.

Docklands area, formerly an industrial, has potential to become more pedestrian-cycling oriented. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

Docklands, formerly an industrial area, has potential to become more pedestrian-cycling oriented. Melbourne, Australia 2011. Photo by HJEH Becker

  While sitting on a bench along an old pier, an urban planning student approached me and asked questions.  He and his mates are working on a uni project.  What do you like about this development?  What needs to be done to it?  After my dissertation on the topic, he advised that their polling of Dockland users, brought forth the same thinking.  Simply, the strengths of the Docklands combined with Vancouverism along the waterfront, would yield a very desirable people street and places that would compete with the best of what Europe can offer.  Sterile is the most predominant word used to describe the Docklands.  The architects have not quite left the 1960’s and 80’s to join in with the best of Vancouverism architecture that makes people streets and places.

What really stands out from visiting Melbourne for a couple of weeks, are the trams system and the right hook turns that cars make when the street have tram tracks.  One is used to seeing cyclists do it, but not cars.

Melbourne a windy city that grows on you.

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A bike share planned for this small northeastern US city Sept. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

A bike share system is contemplated by this small northeastern US city. Sept. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Bike Share systems are springing up in cities around the world.  From the larger cities of Paris and London to smaller ones, people are picking up communal bicycles and cycling to their destinations.  All of a sudden people have more options.  Many more trips can be made without the use of a car.  Have a bag or some shopping with you?  No problem.  Just place it in the front carrier.  Have a young child with you?  No problem.  Just park it in the front carrier.  Have your girlfriend with you?  No problem.  Just place her in the front carrier and enjoy the trip talking with her.  Just remember to keep your attention on the road, not her.  For some, it is now more feasible to leave their cars at home and take transit most of the way and then cycle the rest.  For others, they can walk, do some shopping, grab a bicycle, and then cycle further on their journey.

Bike Share:  Redux of 1950’s Golf Clubs 
This begs the question if Bike Share of 2010 is the golf club phenomena in the 1950’s. Is it the thing to do? For a spectrum of the public, the social nuance of  

Small northeastern US city Sept. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Small northeastern US city. Sept. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

membership is important and maybe these enthusiasts are the ones deserting golf clubrooms for urban city streets with their shared bikes. As Velib in Paris has shown, using Bike Share is a social, even chic thing.

Why are cities jumping on this bandwagon even when the economic case for viability of Bike Share is still being questioned? In fact, many are still questioning or are just unaware of the economic or social cases supporting Bike Share . Maybe it is more a modern day matter of “keeping up with the Joneses”.

Same city also equipped with bus bike racks Sept. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Same U.S. city also equipped with bus bike racks. Sept. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Bike Share is truly not a cycling project.  It is more an extension of the transit system.  It is part of the linearity of trips.  No longer does one have to be tied to the routine of returning to a parked bike, or parked car if one is driving.  Now one can just move forward and mix modes of walking, transit, and cycling with ease and transparency.  Cycling can fill in very effectively the voids in transportation created with low-service level bus routes.  It can fill in the gaps past distances where walking is comfortable.

However, the question still begged to be addressed is why are small populous cities of 25,000 or 50,000 people wanting to get into Bike Share The answer may be varied from the vanities of an election platform to meeting some very specific,  tangible transportation or urban liveability opportunities.

Treed, New England style northeastern US small city. Sept. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Treed, New England style northeastern US small city. Sept. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

 A Modest Bike Share Project: Small Northeastern U.S. City
Just recently I had an opportunity to sit down with some community leaders from a downtown business association in a very small city and listen to their perspective on why they wanted Bike Share in their community.  This was densely treed, New England style attractive city with brownstoned homes and with less than 30,000 residents and about 45,000 visitors annually.  The city lays at the edge of a continental mountain range and is bounded by two wide, navigational rivers.  There is a college community of 2,600 students on top of the hill.  There is a vibrant bus system.  There is a car network that did not dissect the urban core.  Urban core streets are not over-car dependant.  There is much on-street parking.  The fall colours on the deciduous trees took over the vista at this time of the year.

These leaders had thought carefully about Bike Share for their community.  They recognized that the urban sprawl development model of North American cities, had come to its end.  They recognize that more and more people would realize that they personally had to make lifestyle changes.  It would be time to move back into the urban core.  These leaders want their city to be the leaders in this new movement of revitalizing their city into the model of the 21st century for their valley and metro area.  They see Bike Share as part of this leadership.

In small northeastern US city Sept. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

In small northeastern US city. Sept. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

 These leaders had developed an understanding of their customer base and selected a segment for their first foray into Bike Share.  A strategy emerged with focusing on a customer segment and corridor where sufficient Bikes could be placed to create a mental image of an actively used system.  Bicycles would be very visible even to those who would be non-cognitive to moving objects about them.  Drivers would see the bike in motion.  They would be drawn to give cycling and Bike Share a try.  Usage demand would build the support for expansion within the city, the metro area, and the valley.

Today’s systems focus on a universal-type bicycle for a defined range of people but leave out other segments of a potential customer base for Bike Share.  For expansion of the customer base, bicycles design would be expanded as well and drift into specialized designs.  The Paris-style systems focus on daily turnover of bicycles.  For expanding the customer base in a small city, bicycle turnover performance expectations may be in a different direction.

Small northeastern US city downtown Sept. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

Small northeastern US city downtown. Sept. 2010. Photo by HJEH Becker

 Creativity was recognized for funding a Bike Share system within a small community by using all available avenues.  User pricing would be dictated by the reality of the community.  Funding support from government and private sources supplemented by job support programs would contribute to the funding package.

The leaders recognized that the customers for Bike Share would be today’s drivers on the roads.  Since these drivers are not cycling today, it would take more than just giving them a bicycle to get them on the road.  Bike Share systems tend to be part of an overall program, not just providing bicycles to the populous at very little cost.  New users would also need to feel that the cycling environment is conducive to cycling.  Drivers would then be more receptive to the new way of this form of mobility with its perceived safer cycling environment, with its trip efficiency, with its close-by parking at destinations, with its focus on personal separation from cars, and with its higher visibility to others, especially through intersections.

With a supportive program, Bike Share would flourish and develop local bike rental business along with increased sales of bicycles and accessories in local stores.  Retailers, at their cash registers, would observe their clientele forgoing stylish hair for stylish helmets with striking colours and decals.  Scarcity of car parking would be replaced with bikes parked on sidewalks and with full bike racks in front of stores.

 

Over the last three years, Third Wave Cycling has been following the bike sharing evolution.

Further Reading: 
Partial list of bike share systems in large and small towns.

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Bike design- Copenhagen bike share system 2008. Photo by Jack Becker, Third Wave Cycling Group.

Bike design- Copenhagen bike share system 2008. Photo by Jack Becker, Third Wave Cycling Group.

I avoid fixed stationary exercise bikes –and we have them in our home building’s fitness centre. I avoid them at most hotels where I have stayed even if they have adjustable saddle height. Still this feature did not improve the fit.  After grinding painfully twice, each time on a different model in a different facility, I gave up after 10 minutes. After one experience, my arms ached for the next 2 hours.  I was already a regular cyclist on my bike outside several times per week for a few years and familiar with good bike fit.

What is thought to be ‘average’ bike geometry is a bike design where often the top centre tube is too long for short limbed folks and there is no provision to shorten handlebar set distance closer to the saddle. I am 5’1” (155 cm) .

Bike design- Velib bike share. Paris, France 2008. Photo by J.Becker, Third Wave Cycling Group.

Bike design- Velib bike share. Paris, France 2008. Photo by Jack Becker, Third Wave Cycling Group.

However there are many people who have similar problems even if they are several inches taller. Since their arm length is short, they are overstretched when seated on a regular sized bike.  Many women observe this problem when hunting for their first or next bike.

It is with tempered enthusiasm, I eyed the bike design submissions for City of Copenhagen’s 2009 competition for their next bike share system to be installed in 

Bike design- Velo'v bike share. Lyon, France 2008. Photo by Jack Becker, Third Wave Cycling Group.

Bike design- Velo'v bike share. Lyon, France bike 2008. Photo by Jack Becker, Third Wave Cycling Group.

 2013 after they announced the winning design  in Dec. 2009.   Some designs were cool bike ‘eye candy’. Yet one wondered about the practicality and cycling comfort for many designs.  Aesthetic fit to the city’s  milieu was one of Copenhagen’s  bike design competition criteria.

Over the years when I rent a bike, adequate bike fit is helpful.  After renting different bikes for a day ride or so in Portland, Seattle, Calgary, Montreal, Hawaii, Nantucket Island and Vermont, I have experienced various bikes.  Sometimes there was no choice at the rental shop. Good bike fit will make any bike ride more enjoyable and liberating, no matter how unfamiliar your surroundings may be in whatever weather conditions.  Good bike fit avoids much pain in the knees, back, hands, arms and legs.  Good bike fit reduces the effort of cycling.  Good bike fit will not cause people to say they will not cycle again because of  pain and effort.  Good bike fit enables the rider to forget bike fit. It needs to be quickly forgettable in order for the rider to focus instead, on performance of their body, the traffic and surroundings around them. 

Bike design- Bicing bike share. Barcelona, Spain 2008. Photo by Jack Becker, Third Wave Cycling Group.

Bike design- Bicing bike share. Barcelona, Spain 2008. Photo by Jack Becker, Third Wave Cycling Group.

Bike ‘fit’ is a relative word in current bike share systems. Existing city public bike share designs worldwide, integrate design features with built-in payment, time-tracking and locking mechanisms. Present bike share systems offer a set free time period, often within the first half an hour. This amount of time is deemed adequate for short trips in urban core areas before paid time period is activated. Depending on the cyclist’s capability, trip route configuration and traffic volume, trip distance would be approximately 7-10 kms. during the free half hour. In the City of Vancouver, the average commuting one-way trip is 5-10 kms. within its city boundaries. (City of Vancouver, Engineering Services). 

Perhaps it is the short bike trip rationale that drives bike designers to create a one size bike design with very little or no bike component adjustments for public bike share systems.  The bike designs submitted for the latest Copenhagen competition, seem to support a perceived lesser need for a  flexible bike fit compared to cost-oriented factors of bike durability and security to control damage and loss.

In May 2009, I tried the demonstration Bixi bike design from Montreal that was temporarily installed for a few weeks in Vancouver.  Though the fit was awkward for me, more importantly the heavy bike frame made me wonder if I was less physically fit, how one would cope with grinding up a gentle hill in

Bike design- OyBike share. London, UK 2008. Photo by Jack Becker, Third Wave Cycling Group.

Bike design- OyBike share. London, UK 2008. Photo by Jack Becker, Third Wave Cycling Group.

downtown Vancouver.  After all, the target market for bike share systems includes a broad range of users who may not be frequent cyclists or indeed, engaged in regular exercise.  If a bike share system is to encourage redirecting urban car use to cleaner transportation  and reduce road congestion, then bike share makes a lot of sense.  Bike share systems should inspire more people to embrace cycling by acquiring their own bike later.  However the limited fit of current bike designs for  bike share systems may only appeal and convert some  people to regular cyclists later.

For practical reasons, in addition to flexible bike fit, these additional features are of value for a bike share model and foster greater use by more people:

  • multiple gearing up to 8 speeds-  useful for weak or unfit cyclists
  • reasonable light bike weight-  lighter bike compensates abit for other bike fit problems.
  • front basket-  just a map holder is inadequate. Not everyone thinks of wearing a knapsack. Not all people like strapping on a shoulder bag across their back or front.  A weighted shoulder bag shifts across the body while on bike and gets in the way.

Take a look at the 2009 Copenhagen bike share design ideas. We have included bikes that J. Becker and R. Campbell of  Third Wave Cycling Group, saw during their 2008 visit to the captioned cities with bike share systems.  There are some intriguing bikes but for a more satisfying ride, an adjustable bike design, will surely draw more converts to cycling as a sensible transportation vehicle for urban trips to stores, cafes, services and nearby parks.

Interesting Reading:

CPH Bike Share Competition: All Entries. City of Copenhagen. Dec. 2009.  See under ‘Original site’ to view competition goals and evaluation criteria.

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