Sunday, January 30, 2011

Bike Patrol

For all the bad stuff I say about living where I do, there's something that I am thoroughly impressed about. The city of Valencia, where I live, has a public system of bicycles.

Yes, you read that right. Public transportation bikes.

You pay a minimal yearly fee (18 euros), and you can use public bicycles to get around the city. There are stations peppered throughout the whole city where you can park and take them out, and when you are done, you leave them at any other station. The whole thing, aside from the yearly fee, is FREE for people to use as many times as you want. The only catch is that you have limited time of 30 minutes to make your trip. If you run over that, they charge you 50 cents, or an extra euro if you go over the hour. This is easily avoidable because 1)Valencia is pretty small and you can get halfway across with those 30 minutes and 2) You can park the bicycle and take it out again for an extra 30 minutes as many times as you want.

The system was implemented earlier last year, and it was a HUGE success. The public bikes have become another common part of the urban landscape. I have been using it almost since the beginning, and I looked like a weirdo at first (people would stop me and ask me about the service while I was riding it) because no one else was using it. As the weeks and months passed, more and more people started joining up, and they are easy to spot because the bikes have a distinctive dark purple cover. Now, it is a common sight for me, when I ride a public bike, to see every person around me is also riding one.

It's a relatively cheap, alternative transportation system. It's not without its faults (sometimes it's hard to find a bike or where to park it), but it has worked out incredibly well for this city. I know for a fact that more cities are beginning to implement it (when I visited London in September, I saw that they had them too), and I hope the idea really takes off. If you want to read more about the system here in Valencia, you can go to their website.

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