Bike hire schemes go global

Cities line up for cycle rental

2008 is set to see an unprecedented expansion in the roll-out of public bike hire schemes across both Europe and the USA, with rivals JCDecaux and Clear Channel Outdoor set to compete for contracts in towns and cities across the globe.  


Washington D.C. announced recently that it will be the first US city to launch a major public bike hire scheme and London’s new Mayor Johnson has committed himself to providing a public hire scheme across the capital too (details eagerly awaited……).

The Washington contract is a major coup for Clear Channel Outdoor, the world’s largest outdoor advertising company, which will provide bikes at 10 key locations throughout the city. In contrast to JCDecaux schemes Clear Channel technology is based around online subscription or by calling Clear Channel Outdoor’s service center to obtain a unique code that activates the locking system on your ‘Smartbike’. BikeRadar recently reported on the expansion of this technology in the UK. Both companies offer to cover the bulk of the costs – in exchange for advertising space on the street furniture that is installed as part of the schemes.       

Clear Channel claim all their existing schemes are proven successes, with ‘nearly eight million trips taken on the bikes by a combination of some 180,000 users’. In particular it quotes the 100,000 registered users of their Barcelona scheme.  

Although public bike hire schemes have been operational in mainland Europe for some years, it was the mid-2007 launch of some 20,000 bikes as part of JCDecaux’s Paris Velib scheme that seems to have acted as a catalyst. Many previous large scale city schemes failed because of thefts but the Paris scheme continues to operate successfully, largely because of the credit-card based technology used to deter such problems. A JCDecaux scheme has also been operating 2,000 hire bikes successfully in France’s second city, Lyon, since 2005.

Indeed, France seems to be a real hiring hotspot with countless schemes now up and running or on the way; Toulouse, Orléans, Cannes and Dijon are just a handful of examples. There is even an electric bike hire scheme in the city of Clermont-Ferrand and

a six month experimental folding and electric bike hire scheme in the hilly northern city of Rouen that is criss-crossed by trams and buses – ideal conditions for such bikes.       


There are now signs of the trend extending beyond Europe and the US, Tel Aviv having recently announced tenders would be accepted for a 2,000 bike scheme.