Bikeshare programs are a great solution to urban density. Bikeshare programs, which are increasing in both number of locations and expansion of individual programs, allow commuters to get around dense urban areas by renting a bike from one station and returning at another. These innovative programs are great for drivers, who see less traffic on city streets, and great for workers, who can take a quick bike ride to the post office, to lunch, or to a meeting without having to take a cab or their own car. They are affordable and safe alternative to downtown commuting.
To that end, we were pretty excited to see this news from Helsinki, Finland. Read on to learn how this city tripled the number of bikes available and saw a ridership of 13,000 registered users and 6,000 trips a day in a city just over half a million people.
The City Bikes bike-share program of the Finnish capital reopened in early May 2017 after the winter break with 1,400 bikes and 140 stations, nearly tripling the numbers from the program’s first season in 2016.
This seasonal program reports that the bikes were used on average 6 times a day, for a total of 410,000 rides and 740,000km ridden (460,000 miles) during the first season, which lasted from the beginning of May to the end of October 2016. The average trip was 2km long and took 20 minutes. More than 10,000 users registered for the whole season, and 13,500 registered for either a day or a week. During the first two weeks of the 2017 season, the program recorded 13,000 registered users and 6,000 trips a day. The population of Helsinki is 635,000.
Sixty percent of users in 2016 regularly combined bike share with other forms of public transit, bike share typically forming the first or last leg of the journey. With the introduction of a new version of the Helsinki metropolitan transit authority’s online Journey Planner, bike share is now more deeply integrated with the rest of the public transit system, which includes buses, streetcars, the Metro subway system, and commuter trains.
Users can personalize their Journey Planner to include bike share in route suggestions, and the planner shows the locations of docking stations, the number of bikes available at the stations in real time and, for example, when it is faster to use a bike than to wait for a streetcar.
In addition to the user code, bike share can be used with the Helsinki travel smart card. The City Bikes program was upgraded for the new season with a feature that allows a bike to be dropped off outside a docking station in case the station is full. The station signs off the bike, which the user locks nearby with an integrated cable.
The key features of the program are online registration, a digital control box on the bike handlebar, and utilization of renewable energy: the stations are powered by solar panels, and the control box is continuously charged through a bike-hub dynamo system. Registration costs €25 for the season, €10 for a week, and €5 for a day. The first 30 minutes of use are free, and each additional 30 minutes costs €1. The maximum one-time use is 5 hours. Registration fees for the 2016 season generated €450,000 million in revenue.
The operator of the Helsinki City Bikes bike-share program is CityBike Finland, which is a joint venture between Smoove of France and Moventia of Spain. Both companies are members of the consortium Smoovengo contracted by Paris to operate the city’s 20,000 Vélib bikes. The City Bikes program is owned by Helsinki’s public transit system provider Helsinki City Transport, while Helsinki Region Transport provides services for the program such as the Journey Planner. Helsinki is a pioneer of bike-share programs in Finland.
Similar programs are being instituted or planned in 7 other Finnish cities including the Helsinki neighbor Espoo, which is testing 100 bikes and 10 stations on loan from Helsinki in 2017.