In 1995 Copenhagen became the first city to introduce a programme that made bicycles freely available to those who wished to use them, but unfortunately not much has changed over the past 15 years.
The free-to-loan bikes have fallen victim to the ravages of time and new technology, and following a vote, the city council is now soliciting bids to replace the old two-wheelers.
Morten Kabell, a city council member for the Red-Green Alliance, was the man behind the proposal to get rid of the current bikes in favour of a more modern model.
‘I’ve rarely made a proposal in the council that was so well received,’ said Kabell. ‘There was absolutely no discussion needed on the issue.’
Bo Asmus Kjeldgaard, the head of the city’s technical and environmental department, said he was already trying to expedite the process to abandon the current contract and get the new city bikes in operation.
The existing sponsor is advertising agency AFA JCDecaux, whose contract expires at the end of 2012. The company has the rights for adverts at around 110 bicycle racks in the city centre. In exchange for the advertising rights, AFA JCDecaux pays for the bikes’ maintenance. Fonden Bycyklen, an independent foundation, administers the city’s bike programme.
Since Copenhagen introduced its bicycle programme 15 years ago, around 30 other major cities have also implemented a bike programme. However, most of the foreign cities have equipped their bikes with the latest designs and technologies.
In London, for example, the bicycles have an electronic lock and LCD display with instructions in five different languages, and they are unlocked with a code sent via an SMS. The London bikes are not free, however. After the first 30 minutes a fixed fee is charged for each additional half or full hour.
Copenhagen bike users need a 20 kroner coin to rent the bicycle, which is returnable upon return to the rack. However, there have been indications that the city council is considering charging fees for the bikes’ usage.
The new city bikes will, at the latest, be on the streets by 2013, according to the city council.
In the autumn of 2009 a competition was held to determine the new bicycle design. Of the 127 proposals from five continents, two shared first prize and will serve as the inspiration for the next generation of city bikes.