Moscow gets red bikes for hire

moscowMoscow Bike Hire scheme machines

Moscow, the city with the worst traffic congestion in the world based on TomTom’s Annual Congestion Index, introduced the first bike sharing scheme earlier in the summer, the European Cyclists’ Federation reported.

More than 300 bright red bikes lined along the Boulevard Ring and continued up to Kremlin offering locals and tourists the opportunity to experience a different aspect of the city.

Cycling in Moscow is certainly not the easiest endeavor, given the notorious reputation of Russians drivers whose erratic behavior holds the dark record of causing the deadliest car accidents in comparison to most Western countries. However, people seem to take to cycling more enthusiastically than anyone expected, with bike rentals exceeding 10,000 just in the first week of operation and bike journeys per person and per day surpassing those in London and France – at least according to Charles Butler, the man who organised the bike-sharing scheme on behalf of the Czech company Homeport.

Mr Butler considers Moscow as a city with a lot of potential for cyclists, despite the permanently congested Garden Ring and the rather intimidating behaviour of drivers towards anything with two legs — let alone two wheels. The secret is to navigate the small roads that not many motorists prefer.

Depending on the program’s success, the goal is to increase the bikes up to 2000 or 3000 in the next few years.

Another positive sign was that vandalism and theft are reportedly maintained on a very low level, sending an encouraging message for the future of the project. Cycling is gaining momentum in Russia and similar programs are popping up in other cities such as St. Petersburg, the ECF said.

People who want to use the bikes has to first register at velobike.ru. After registering online, cyclists can use the bikes free of charge for the first 30 minutes or pay 950 roubles (€22, $A31.50) for the season, which lasts until October 31 after which the snow and ice make cycling inadvisable. The site is currently only in Russian but soon it will be translated in English as well.

Moscow being the most eye-catching example in the bunch does not overshadow the phenomenal proliferation of bike-hire arrangements around the globe, the ECF said.

The latest count by co.exist.com showed at least 500 schemes worldwide, varying from maximalist Paris with 18,380 active bikes to small arrangements like the one of Cititavecchia, a town outside Rome, with only 40 bikes. Following what can be described as a global trend, Chicago and New York also joined the team of cities switching to bike-hire. In the big Apple, the first weeks of the City Bike sharing scheme were marked by success but also complaints about the organisation and several technical problems which impeded people getting bikes easily, the ECF said.

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