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The Copenhagen Bike Share Competition – Modeling “Modern City” Development

| Thursday September 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments


Copenhagen’s upcoming bike share competition is a glimpse into the City’s vision for itself: that of a “modern city, with emphasis on effective and environmentally-friendly transport forms,” the CPH bike share competition website says. The primary goal of the contest is simple: To conceptualize and implement a custom-made-for-Copenhagen bike share program that will help the City meet its sustainable development goals. In doing so, the contest will help build a green, dynamic City that is workable for Copenhagen residents, commuters, and tourists. It will also cement sustainability into Copenhagen’s transportation system while (its creators hope) making the City a model of green transport development. But will the program result in financial benefits substantial enough for other communities worldwide to follow suit?

In the open design competition, participants must devise a bike share system to replace or improve upon the existing one (begun in 1995). The plan must address all aspects of a bike share program, including designing the bikes, coordinating booking, payment, and pickup and dropoff of the bikes, integrating the program into the city’s existing structure, and paying for the program. Awards include a 250,000 DKK (approximately €33,000) prize for the winner and 50,000 DKK (approximately €6,500) Special Design Prize. (The Competition Programme details the specifics of the competition.)

One of the aspects of the contest I find most intriguing is that the City implemented the competition, in part, because it didn’t have a clear idea of what a “bike share concept” looks like. It therefore sought community members’ input instead of adopting a top-down approach. I wonder what effect this approach will have on the bike share program’s overall effectiveness, including the degree to which people participate in the program.

I also wonder how the bike share program will benefit Copenhagen financially. (The idea is phenomenal, but for some countries to follow its example, there will probably have to be a definable bottom line.) It seems the tourist hook could be appealing, since the program would further distinguish Copenhagen as an “eco-metropolis” (therefore attracting more tourists) while making biking seem sexier (and more doable) for visitors. Moreover, the winning bike share program entry must also incorporate the program into the City’s existing transportation grid (i.e. train system, etc…). Therefore, it seems other communities with similar grids could see the immediate benefits (i.e. reduction of traffic congestion, easier parking, etc…) and relative ease with which the program can be implemented. But would these benefits occur too far down the road to appeal to other cities in a timely way?

What do you think the implications of Copenhagen’s bike share competition are in regards to sustainable development?


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