While walking around Santiago de Chile recently, I came across many racks of bright orange bicycles like the one below. It turns out they belong to Bike Santiago, a public bike rental system which is the first of its type in Chile.
The bikes reminded me of an ITGS past paper question from May 2009 which involved a similar system, so I researched it a bit further. The Bike Santiago website is quite good; if you speak Spanish it is definitely worth checking out as it has information about how the system works.
In order to rent bikes from Bike Santiago users must first register their details online or with a customer support centre. This process includes taking personal details and bank account information or a credit card number. Up to four people can be registered on a single credit card. Registered users then receive a “B-Card”. This is the card which allows access to the bikes at the stand, releasing the locks and allowing the user access.
Users are charged a registration fee of 4,990 Chilean pesos per month, which is about US$7.50. There is also a usage fee: the first 30 minutes of any journey are free; the next 30 minutes cost 500 pesos (about US$0.75), and so on.
The Bike Santiago system also features a smart phone app which can be downloaded to highlight the location of the nearest bike racks and even indicate the number of available bikes.
Systems like this have many links to the ITGS syllabus and can make useful introduction examples for new ITGS students, or review material for students starting the second year of the course. This is a great opportunity to discuss fundamental topics like the hardware used to track bikes and identify users, and the communication technologies used to report the status of the bike racks to the phone app (strand 3). Of course there are also a number of ITGS social and ethical issues that are raised, including authenticity, security, and privacy (Strand 1).
On the positive side, Bike Santiago advertise their system as saving commuters time and money compared to other public transport options such as the metro / subway or buses. There are also environmental benefits to bicycles too, of course.
In addition to Chile, I noticed a similar bike rental system in Washington DC, and the May 2009 past paper references a system in Lyon, France. Are you aware of other schemes in different parts of the world? Do feel free to post a link in the comments below.