SEA Countries To Launch Bike-Share Programmes

Urban bike-sharing programmes are coming to our neck of the woods as well as our neighbours'. On 1 August, the Penang government awa...

Urban bike-sharing programmes are coming to our neck of the woods as well as our neighbours'. On 1 August, the Penang government awarded a RM9.2 million contract to Public Bike Share Sdn Bhd after a public tender was carried out for a bike-sharing system in the state's capital, George Town. Penang, a popular tourist destination, is located in north Malaysia and the introduction of a bike-share system, similar to those implemented in cities like London and New York, will no doubt be appreciated by residents and tourists alike. Penang, which does not have the convenience of a mass rail transit system, has its ample share of daily traffic woes.

The bike-share system will allow users who have purchased a pass to pick up a bicycle at one station and drop it off at another closest to their destination.

During the press conference announcing the awarding of the contract, Penang Chief Minister, Lim Guan Eng, said, “This is a move to encourage Penangites to cycle as the first step to an evolution in the state’s transport system.

“We believe that the system will significantly relieve traffic congestion in Penang, improve visitors’ experience by making places accessible without a car and this project supports the state government’s commitment to a cleaner, greener, safer and healthier Penang.”

Public Bike Share will bear the cost of design, implementation, operations and maintenance, and pay a total of RM1.5 million in concession fee to the municipal council of Penang within the 12-year concession period.

Malaysia is not the only country in the region who has taken to encouraging this eco-friendly, petrol-free mode of transportation. Vietnam has plans to launch bike-share schemes in five of its cities next year. The government has yet to release details but a senior ministry official told a local newspaper that ideally the pilot programmes are conducted in Saigon’s District 1 and Hanoi’s Old Quarter – both are areas clogged with motorbikes.

In Singapore, the Land Transport Authority is exploring the possibility of launching a similar programme in the country by issuing a Request For Information (RFI) to assess whether its citizens would use the facility if it was available. After the completion of the RFI, the LTA expects to launch the pilot bike-share programme by end of next year in areas that have bike path networks, such as the city centre and Jurong Lake district.

There are still very few studies, as bike-share is a relatively new concept, to determine whether bike-sharing programmes can effectively reduce car ownerships. Early studies, for instance one that focused on Hangzhou Public Bicycle, found that the facility had successfully reduced auto usage, lightened the load on other public transportation, namely buses and taxis, and was used by the good people of Hangzhou as an alternative to walking. The study also found that amongst the respondents, those who were members of the bike-share programme had a higher rate of vehicle ownership compared to non-members; in other words, those who own personal vehicles are keen to use the bicycles instead. However, it does appear that people are not going to give up their cars and motorbikes any time soon, but they are at least willing to incorporate bicycles into part of their commute.

There is one thing that we would like to suggest… pay-per-use shower facilities and raincoat vending machines attached to these bike stations or offered by employers who want to support such programmes. Malaysia, Vietnam and Singapore are all located near the Equator, where sometimes it pours like the heavens is trying to drown us and other times the Sun beats down with equal fury. Nobody wants an employee to turn up at work sweaty, smelly or drenched.



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