It’s perhaps not surprising that bike-sharing was born in one of the world’s most prolific transport innovators. France brought us the stylish automobiles of the 1960s, high-speed TGVs, Airbus jetliners – and urban bike-sharing. 40 years ago, the French city of La Rochelle launched what is considered the world’s first successful bike-sharing programme, Vélos Jaunes (Yellow Bikes). Incredibly, the bikes were actually free to use at first, and 30 years later ( in 2004) the fellow French city of Lyon would launch the world’s first major bike-share scheme using next-generation, computerized bike racks and memberships cards. Some 600 cities around the world now have a bike-share system, most of them being wildly successful in terms of market penetration and user-rates. In fact, we’re positively hooked on them. New York City’s own Citibike was launched earlier this year and in only a few months the programme has already grown to nearly 100,000 members. User numbers aside, however, the vast majority of these systems have floundered financially, much to the dismay of city governments. But can (or should?) bike-sharing be financially self-sustaining? Read more here, also in Portuguese.
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