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Beijing to double bicycles for rent

Updated: 2013-07-18 02:19
By Zheng Xin ( China Daily)

Making the service pay

The program is operated by businesses but funded by the government with policy support.

The service was first initiated by private businesses, which failed to cover their costs due to meager profits and heavy expenses. Lacking policy support, the private businesses soon either abandoned the service or declared bankruptcy.

"The embarrassment was mainly due to a lack of support from the government for the bike renting system, as the rent alone hardly supports the operation," said an official from the commission on condition of anonymity.

"The government investment is the major reason the bikes are here for rent today," he said.

The commission told China Daily the government will continue investing in the service, which is labeled a public benefit project, and is not considering introducing a business model for the program at present.

Still, experts warn the project has obstacles to tackle, such as improving management and layout planning.

Jiang Zhongguang, a professor of urban planning at the Beijing University of Civil Engineering and Architecture, said as the service grows in size, scientific operation and management is key to benefit the public.

"To make full use of the government funds and allocate the investment where it's most needed, the government should consider adopting a business model, including introducing advertising on the bikes and parking lots," he said.

Hangzhou and Wuhan have introduced advertising to their bike rental service, which has greatly reduced government input.

According to Friends of Nature, an environmental protection NGO based in Beijing, advertising could cover half of the operating cost of the public bicycle renting system in Hangzhou.

"Only with delicate management and scientific policies would the idea get boosted in the long term," Jiang said.

Eventually, the government should retreat from the service when it's running a healthy business model on its own, he said.

To make the program sustainable, Jiang said the city should also clear lanes for bike riders and do more research before choosing where to set up stations.

Freeing Slow lanes

Transport authorities are planning a range of improvements to slow lanes on the capital's roads, a move aimed at encouraging the use of bicycles.

Beijing Commission of Transport and the city's traffic management bureau said on Tuesday that improvements made this year will be near subway lines 4, 5 and 6 and at crossroads along the second and third ring roads.

Car parking spaces along the right-hand side of the slow lane will be moved to the left, so that cyclists won't find the lane blocked by cars cutting across it to access parking spaces, Beijing Daily reported.

Meanwhile, structures such as bus stations and telegraph poles that interrupt the flow of traffic will be removed.

With these efforts, the municipal transport authority aims to raise the number of journeys by bicycle to 23 percent by 2015, up from the current rate of less than 20 percent.

Beijing, once dubbed the"Bicycle Kingdom", has witnessed a sharp drop in the use of bikes in recent years. The rate stood at 62.7 percent in the 1980s, according to official statistics.

Research by the transport commission last year showed that among the city's 361 key roads, nearly 300 have lanes for bicycles and pedestrians, but many of them have design defects and fail to serve their function properly.

Many residents said they had bad experiences while using slow lanes. For example, bike lanes were often occupied by motor vehicles, or blocked by a bus station.

China Daily


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