Capital bike share scheme ‘among the world’s best’

A new study from HSL compared 50 bike schemes around the world in small cities like Tallinn to huge cities like Hangzhou in China.

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File picture of Espoo bike share scheme, summer 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

A study commissioned by HSL shows the bike share scheme in Helsinki and Espoo is among the best in the world when it comes to usability.

The report looks at bike sharing schemes in 50 cities around the world including New York, Barcelona, Paris, Hangzhou and Antwerp and finds that the most successful systems need several factors to be in play.

The quality of the bikes, general attitude towards cycling in the city, climate and weather, topography and pricing are key components to increase usability.

The smallest scheme included in the study is in Tallinn with just 100 bikes; while the largest in Hangzhou China had 50,000 bikes in use.

File picture of bike wheels in cycling share scheme / Credit: News Now Finland

Growing use of capital region bikes

HSL first launched the bike share scheme in Helsinki in 2016 with 50 stations and just 500 bikes. During that first bike season there were 400,000 annual rides.

By 2018 the system was expanded to neighbouring Espoo, with a total of 255 bike stations and 2550 bikes – and 3.2 million annual rides.

Compared to all the other bike systems, Helsinki alone had the highest number of rides per bike, per day when it’s in use at 8.9; and Helsinki and Espoo combined ranked third at 6.9, just behind Dublin.

By comparison, bikes in Oslo are used 4.5 times each per day; while Barcelona bikes are used 6 times each per day; and bikes in Lodz, Poland are used just 4 times per day.

“When comparing usage numbers between different cities it’s important to remember that bike-share systems fulfill different roles in different cities” HSL writes in the report.

“In some they are aimed at leisure and tourist use, and in some they are designed to be seamlessly linked with public transportation”.

The Helsinki system is planned to be part of the public transport system which is one reason why it has become so popular.

File picture of bike stands getting ready for the cycling season, March 2019 / Credit: News Now Finland

Secrets for success 

So what makes one bike share system more popular than another? It’s not just about how much use the individual bicycles get.

In the case of Helsinki, the relatively high density of docking stations coupled with a low price €30 for the whole season are factors which make the bike share scheme popular.

Other factors like how easy the interface is, and the ease of returning the bikes to the docking stations, even when they’re full, are important as well for users.

Popularity brings problems for the scheme 

As more people take more rides on the Helsinki and Espoo bike scheme, it brings some extra problems for HSL.

With too much demand, users might have a less positive experience if they can’t get access to a bike. And with more users comes a greater need for maintenance for the equipment.