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Copenhagen's new bikeshare system has on-board tablets

Posting in Technology

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Copenhagen is regularly near the top of lists touting the best cities for biking in the world. Now the city has a bikeshare system to match its sterling cycling reputation.

High-tech doesn't often come to mind when talking about bikes or bikeshare, but Bycyklen, the name of Copenhagen's new bikeshare system, is rolling out a fleet of innovative bikes.

As with most bikesharing system, users pick up bikes at docking stations and drop them off at stations throughout the city. Commuters in the city can get on a subscription plan to pay for their rides and reduce the per hour price. Tourist can rent bikes by the hour. But what sets the system apart are the bikes.

Each bike is equipped with an electric motor (which the city claims to be carbon neutral) and a "vandal-proof" tablet installed in the center of the handlebar that can be used as a GPS or travel guide with tips for what to do in the city. Gobike created Bycyklen's smart bikes.

The system has been criticized, however, for its high costs and safety concerns from distracted riding. So why did Copenhagen go with smart bikes to replace its old bikeshare? As Andreas Røhl, head of the Mobility and Urban Space unit of the Copenhagen municipality, told Quartz, it's because the city needed a bike that stands out since it already has high rate of bike ownership.

It would be a waste of tax-payer money to simply give them more bikes. (That is also why the first half-hour is not free, as is common practice in other cities.) Instead, the city determined that GoBikes should be attractive to people who may not be used to cycling--such as tourists and suburbanites.

The system also saves money by providing financial incentives for users to park bikes at less-busy stations so that less money is spent to distribute bikes from full stations to empty stations, according to Quartz.

The question is whether the smart bikeshare model will be a novelty in Copenhagen or if cities where traditional bikes are a novelty will consider using smart bikes for bikeshare.

Photo: Bycyklen/Facebook

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— By on June 30, 2014, 11:06 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure