Updated: Mar 1, 2019
Spring time is the best time to get people on a bike and Warsaw is making the most of it. Wednesday marks the launch of the new season for the Venturilo bike sharing system – it brings with it new upgrades to the riding system for 2017.
In addition to the 4.500 bicycles, authorities are releasing cargo bikes on the street of Poland’s capital city. The main argument for the new acquisition is that people need to carry bigger things around and authorities want to help them with this solution.
Compared to Nordic countries and The Netherlands, riding is not a common practice in CEE countries where authorities are doubly challenged. First, there is the need to educate people into using the bike systems. Besides explaining to them the benefits of adopting a new means of transport a second, more technological, challenge appears.
For alternatives to car driving to be a success, it is crucial to have a perfectly functioning system. Why is that? Otherwise, people get bored. They are too comfortable in their driving seats to switch to pedalling and any malfunction of the new systems they should embrace will have a negative impact on the attempt to change behaviour.
The bike sharing system in Cluj-Napoca, Romania was very well received when it launched in November 2015. Seven months into its use, nearly 12,000 cards have been issued by the city hall. People’s enthusiasm soon vanished due to the poor quality of the service, though. Many reported that even if the initiative is a good one, the fact that it sometimes takes up to half an hour to pick up a bike is discouraging. Offering only one free hour, with hourly charges if you go over the time limit, didn’t help in raising awareness on the importance of biking either.
It’s true that cities in CEE are making efforts to qualify themselves as ‘smart cities’, but the focus should be on the quality of smart city solutions they offer, not on how many and how fast they integrate them.