City delays new bicycle sharing scheme

No money was set aside in next year’s budget for an anticipated and modernized bicycle sharing scheme to replace the almost two decade old “supermarket trolley” bikes

Copenhagen’s heavy and outdated city bicycles are not going to be replaced as expected, after the city failed to find the necessary funding in its 2013 budget.

It was widely anticipated that Copenhagen would follow cities such as London and Paris and introduce a modern bicycle sharing scheme. Rental stands would be placed at stations so commuters could continue their journeys on a bicycle once they made their way into the city by train.

But the scheme failed to find a place in the city's budget for next year despite the fact that the current contract for the city's rental bikes, which were introduced in 1995, runs out this month.

”It’s a tragi-comedy,” Frits Bredal, spokesperson for the Danish cyclist's union, Cyklistforbundet, told DR. “The plans for new city bicycles have been on the drawing board for many years and were supposed to be extended across the country but now it’s been sent to the grave. It’s deeply frustrating.”

Bredal added that Copenhagen's system was old-fashioned and was in dire need of an overhaul.

“They’re pieces of junk and borrowing them is like picking up a supermarket trolley. Other European cities use modern bicycles that are at centrally-located docking stations that you can pay for using your credit card, making you feel more responsible.”

According to urban mobility expert Mikael Colville-Andersen from Copenhagenize Consulting, the decision not to fund the bicycle sharing scheme is disappointing after all the work that went into it.

“The competition developing the new scheme was really popular and so much money was wasted hyping it up,” Colville-Andersen told The Copenhagen Post.

He added that a sharing scheme would not need to be as comprehensive as those found in Paris or Barcelona but was still necessary if Copenhagen was to live up to its reputation as a leading cycle-friendly city.

“It’s a symbol of being a carbon-neutral capital. There’s loads of money out there, but its not being put into bicycling and developing Copenhagen as a liveable city.”

But Ayfer Baykal (Socialistisk Folkeparti), Copenhagen's deputy mayor for technical and environmental affairs, defended the city’s decision not to invest in the cycle sharing scheme this year.

“They’re junk, I agree with Cykelistforbundet on that issue,” Baykal told DR news. “The city bike scheme, as it exists today, needs to be updated. It is old and outdated. But right now we need to prioritise.”

Around 150 million kroner has been set aside for new bicycle projects in the city’s budget, though the money will be spent on improving cycling conditions in the city instead of on a sharing scheme that will mostly be used by tourists and commuters.

“The city bike scheme is primarily for people coming from outside the city because Copenhageners have their own bicycles. I have chosen to prioritise better cycling conditions in Copenhagen through improved bicycle lanes and bicycle parking instead of the bicycle sharing system.”

The new bicycle sharing scheme, which would involve placing bicycles at train stations around the city for commuters to use as transport after the train, would cost about 114 million kroner.

Baykal added that there was no guarantee the bicycle system will be included in the 2014 budget and that national government ought to consider part-funding the project, as the new bicycles will not solely be used by residents of Copenhagen.

The current city bikes are sponsored by advertising firm AFA JCDecaux, whose contract expires at the end of October.

Deputy mayor of Frederiksberg council, Katrine Lester (Socialdemokraterne) expressed her disappointment on Twitter that the City Council had not found the funding this year for the scheme.

“Copenhagen pulls the plug on city bikes. Shame! Frederiksberg had already found the money for our share,” she wrote.

Jan E. Jørgensen (Venstre), chairman of Frederiksberg's city and environment committee, told Berlingske that developing the new scheme had cost the city a lot of money.

“We can live with a delay. But it would be incredibly disappointing if it never materialises.”