The following post is part of the course work for “Live Exchange” the foundational course on communication for The MBA Design Strategy Program at California College of the Arts. The rest of the posts are presented here.
By Guillaume Driscoll
On a recent visit to Dublin, as I made my way back to my hotel along the quiet, rainsoaked streets, I rounded the southeast corner of St Stephen’s Green to find a rack of 20 identical shining bicycles in the lamplight. At the center of the bikerack was a glowing kiosk explaining how the bike share process worked. I rented a bike on the spot and careening through the city streets became my number one holiday objective.
Since 2009, Dublin has seen overwhelming success with its bicycle sharing program. Dublinbikes.ie, modeled after the Paris Bike Program, (Paris Bikes) has had a high adoption rate as Dubliners are using the bikes much more than anyone had expected. The program has been so popular that this past November the City Council voted to expand the program from the current 500 bikes to 5,000. (Irish Times)
The brilliance of the system is its simplicity. When Dubliners need to get from one part of town to another, they can check out a bike from one of 40 bike centers around the city and deposit at another when they are done.
The bicycles are free for the first half-hour. Afterwards, there is an escalating, hourly-based, tiered pricing structure. This encourages riders to keep their trips brief and allow more users the opportunity to utilize the biking system. The rider is also on the hook should anything happen to the bicycle while it is in their care. If the bike is not returned the credit card on record is charged.
Due to the monetary incentive, the program has had only several bikes damaged and very few stolen, unlike the Paris scheme, whose theft and vandalization rate threatened to end the program.
Riders can sign up for the service easily by registering online for a Longterm Hire card. However, if a rider is visiting the city for a short period of time 3-Day passes are also available.
According to a local Transportation Department survey, 70% of the riders use the bikes for commuting purposes, while 30% use them for shopping or enjoyment. Of shoppers, almost half of riders made trips that they otherwise would not have, adding additional revenue to local business. Riders who get the urge to shop are aided by a built-in onboard bike lock.
Expanding the Program
Because of the extremely high popularity of the program, the city council voted last year to expand the program from 450 to 5,000 bicycles in the coming years. In addition to the number of bikes available, there are also plans to increase the number of bike stations where bikes can be picked up or dropped off. One issue some riders mentioned was that on occasions bike stations would fill up and riders would have to locate the next closes station on the kiosk. Increasing stations would alleviate this issue as well as open up the program up to more riders.
Over the last two years the biking industry all over Ireland has seen a significant increase in bicycles sales, prompting many in the industry to wonder if there is a correlation between the bikeshare program and biking popularity country wide. Of course a faltering economy and skyrocketing gas prices likely also play a role.
City officials in the United States have also taken notice of the program’s popularity. In April, the city of Boston signed an agreement to start their own version called HUB that could be in place as early as this July. Other cities, like San Francisco, are eagerly searching for alternative transportation methods that are both healthy and sustainable, and will certainly be watching these programs closely.
Back in Dublin I hopped off my bike to catch my breath after peddling frantically through the morning rush hour. I was barely able to to keep up with the bike traffic. However, just two years into the program DublinBikes shows no sign of slowing down.
Guillaume Driscoll is out to change the world through good design, and is currently a graduate student in the Design Strategy MBA program at California College of the Arts. You can view his website at www.guillaumedriscoll.com.