By Luis González
Madrid’s bike sharing program finally debut this week, joining other metropolises, such as Barcelona, Seville, Valencia, Zaragoza, and Vitoria, to advance the most sustainable and healthy transport system after walking. More interestingly, Madrid’s brand new bicycles are electric.
The chosen name was initially controversial. BiciMad comes from bicicleta (bicycle) and Madrid, and despite some people noticing the double meaning in English, the local council did not get it or actually liked it and decided to go “loco.” It was prophetic, as the first day was a little hectic, with it not working and a fake twitter account helping people better than the official one.
Nevertheless the bike sharing system is welcome in Madrid. The Spanish capital is begging for clean air and many social movements have been started in the last few years demanding more space for bikes in the street. Will people in Madrid leave the car to take the bike? The electric motor will probably make the difference.
Taking advantage of the experience from the beautiful city of San Sebastian, Madrid has adopted the same bike model. Specially designed for sharing programs, the robust bike has an integrated battery which lasts for about 18 hours or about 70 kilometers, according to the specifications, allowing the bikes to recharge at night. The bulky handlebar displays all the instructions and contains the controls for the start/stop, lights, and electric assistance level. It also displays the battery charge state.
The booster bike is around 22 kilograms (48 pounds) and cuts the electric thrust at 18 km/h (11 mph), therefore, the assistance will make a difference between sport and transport, but won’t let people surf the city like the effortless kamikaze-deliverymen in New York City.
The bicycle is designed and built by the Spanish company BonoPark, which is at the same time in charge of the stands and management of the system. In total, there will be 1,560 bicycles and 3,120 stands shared at 123 stations. The bicycles will be available 24/7, all year long.
The price is, like always, the most controversial point. Starting with an annual fee of 25 euros (15 for the public transport subscribers), the users will pay 50 euro cents for the first 30 minutes and 60 additional cents for each half-hour of use. After the second hour the price rises to 4 euro per hour.
Compared to other European cities, like Paris or Barcelona, the BiciMad annual fee is slightly lower (29 euros for Paris and 47 euros for Barcelona), but in the other 2 cities the first 30 minutes are for free, which makes Madrid more expensive after just one month of daily use (commuting to work, for example). (Please, do not compare with Copenhagen.)
Price could be justified because these bikes are electric, but a rough approximation makes it more expensive than taking public transport. Visitors and sporadic “BiciMadders” will pay 2 euro for the first hour and 4 euro for the following ones.
BiciMad got in the first 24 hours more than a thousand subscribers, a number that could have been much bigger if the system would not have collapsed. The challenge now is to share the road with the cars. Hopefully the bike sharing program produces a big increase of bikers that will make drivers realize that they are not alone anymore. Actually, that they never were.
Image Credit: BiciMAD