Athens mayor Giorgos Kaminis presented last week the first Athens bicycle rental station at Technopolis in Gazi, downtown Athens. Athens Bikes, as the project is called, is a modern, electronically-controlled, shared bicycle scheme, operated with a prepaid card, like the ones often found these days in cities across Europe..
The logic is simple: offer residents or visitors the opportunity to use the bike for short trips around the center, eradicating the need for motorized transport. In this way, traffic in the city can be significantly reduced ‒ depending on the number of bicycles available for use.
The circulation of more bicycles on the roads has a positive effect on the drivers of other vehicles, prompting them to reduce speeds in urban areas and, so, contributing to the reduction of road accidents. Anyone can use the Athens Bikes after getting a personal card from the shop at Technopolis and “charging” it with kilometers.
The card, which requires the presentation of an identity card or passport, is used to identify the user on the system. The first half hour of use is free and every half hour afterwards is charged 50 cents. The maximum duration of continuous use is three hours. Upon failure to return the bike ‒ the return is confirmed by placing the bicycle back in the electronic bike stand ‒ the user, in whose name the card is issued, can be charged €400 if it is found that the bike was stolen.
For the time being, bikes must be returned to the stand at Technopolis, but it should just be a matter of time before more stations appear around Athens as the scheme is embraced by more people..
Several cities in Europe run such bike sharing schemes, and it’s often been shown that they are introduced out of the need to provide an alternative means of transport to cars or motorcycles. This has the knock-on effect of reducing the wear and tear of roads and bringing down accidents, while improving people’s health, according to surveys by the EU.
Athens is a city that adapts well to bicycle use: Pangrati, Patissia, Kolonos, the historic center and Metaxourgeio are the most flat areas, where riding a bike is easy. In all these areas, if the number of cars is reduced and the use of bicycles is increased, we would undoubtedly enjoy a better quality of life.
The pilot bike sharing scheme by the City of Athens in Technopolis does not pretend to solve all the city’s traffic and pollution problems. But it’s a step in the right direction.