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Public Bicycles: Answers to the Future

In September, 2017, Seoul city celebrates the second birthday of Dda-renung-e, the public bicycles of Seoul. Recently, many citizens have been riding bicycles to work and school or riding just for fun, on a national scale. Public bicycles are now getting attention around the world. As the number of people using public bicycles is increasing, the Sungkyun Times (SKT) now introduces the domestic status of public bicycle use, the problems that are arising from this, and ways to develop a society that bicycles can coexist in.

What is a Public Bicycle?

Public Bicycle

Public bicycle systems were first introduced to find a way to improve residents’ convenience and to solve traffic jams and air pollution. It is a system which is operated by the central government or local government equipped with a rent and return structure. In accordance with experts, a public bicycle system is also referred to as a bicyclesharing service. The services were first started in Europe, and they have spread to approximately 300 cities across the world along with the development of information and communication technologies. Starting from Nubija, the public bicycles of Changwon city in 2008, the public bicycle system was also brought into Korea.

Status of Operation and Usage

In Korea, 14 cities including Seoul, Changwon, Busan and Daejeon are operating a public bicycle system. Among them, Seoul city has the most public bicycles. Although the ways to operate the systems vary from city to city, there are two representative ways. The first way is to take charge of the entire system from beginning to end like Changwon city. The second way is to attract a private company to manage the scheme, like Goyang city. This shows an example of using a public bicycle system as a business model in the private sector. According to the Korea Transport Institute (KTI), people who are in their 20s use public bicycles the most. The research KTI has investigated in accordance with two thousand public bicycle users suggests that 42.6% of them are using bicycles once or twice a week, and 25.4% are using them three to four times a week.

History of Public Bicycle Use

Public bicycle systems have gone through three generations of service type.

First Generation: The first generation of public bicycle use was operated by conscience. People freely picked-up the bicycles which were located in public places with specific marks and returned the bicycles, leaving it to people’s conscience.

Second Generation: If you want to use second generation public bicycles, all you have to do is to give a deposit to a manager. Don’t forget to get your money back after returning the bicycle!

Third Generation: The system of the third generation is adequate for what we use now. It is run by an automatic system in which people can rent and return the bicycles on the internet.

Good or Bad?

Advantages
•Alternatives to Transportation
Public bicycle use can expand the basic right to use public transportation. Those who use this system can be referred to as captive riders, meaning they are the ones using public transportation only. Since public bicycle use has the trait of public transportation, it can be a new form of transportation means for captive riders. In addition, in some regions, captive riders provide a link service between public transportation and public bicycles. This can also be another way to use public bicycles as public transportation.
•Prevention of Thefts
After using public bicycles, users must return them to a certain station. Instead of parking the bicycle in random places where the possibility of robbery is high, the user will park the bicycle in a safe location where security is strong and reliable. By parking the bicycles at a regular station, the city does not have to invest money on building new parking spaces or reinforcing security. This can be regarded as reducing social costs.
•Emergence of New Way to Travel
These days, a new way to travel using public bicycles has emerged. Most public bicycles are located in the central areas of a region. With public bicycles, people can enjoy local tours because they can find bicycles easily. Various courses are also being made based on the location of public bicycle stations.

Drawbacks
Even though public bicycle use has many positive effects and a promising future, its drawbacks are also rising to the surface.
•Expense
A fatal drawback of the public bicycle scheme is that its initial installation costs and annual working expenditure are extremely high. This problem weakens most cities’ desire to introduce public bicycles to the public. This can also lead to problems of sustainability, as a shortage of profits will make it hard for cities to maintain a bicycle system. To solve this problem, the city should increase the profits or decrease the cost. The profit and loss structure of current public bicycles is organized with an annual membership fee, business incidental expenses, and subsidiary business. Business incidental expenses, which is the advertisement business, accounts for 30% of the profit system, but it is poor in making enough profit. It is because local government has no right to impose advertisement regulations on private companies as can be seen in the case of Goyang city. Cities facing this problem are looking for resolutions to solve the expense problem.
•Shortage of Infrastructure
Local governments are satisfied with the public bicycle schemes and they are enlarging the number of bicycles, but infrastructure, the platform of the bicycle system, is still insufficient. In particular, the shortage of cycle paths is the biggest problem. Currently, existing cycle paths are located on the side of streets or on pedestrian paths. Some paths are formed by reducing the width of a street and some are even closely placed with bus stations. Moreover, on pedestrian paths, people sometimes get into minor c o l l i s i o n s with bicycles because the bike lane is placed on the pedestrian path. According to the traffic laws, bicycles are regulated to be ridden only on the street or on cycle paths. Streets, however, are full of cars and, bike paths are narrow or not regarded as a priority. Improvement Plan for Public Bicycle Use

yonhapnews.co.kr/Bicycle Path Obstructed

Ways to Increase Profits and Decrease Costs
To increase the profits and control demands, a lot of cities are planning to apply a differential system. This system is composed of two subsystems which include time and space differences. By applying a differential system based on time and space, public bicycle
users will choose to ride a bike with a higher price at peak times or rather choose to walk to their destination. This system will be useful in that it can control the demands of bikes and increase profits. Beside the differential system, not building kiosks can be a solution for
decreasing the costs. Kiosks are referred to as essential for utilizing IT equipment, where people rent and return the bicycle. Recently, however, as most people have smart phones, kiosks are at risk of replacement. Techniques such as app or bar-code scanning systems
can substitute the function of kiosks. Therefore, a city will be able to reduce the cost of installing kiosks. One kiosk is needed for each station and costs \10 million to \15 million to set-up. By using new techniques, a city can reduce up to \1 billion per 100 stations.
Expanding Links between Public Transportations
Currently, 18.1% of public bicycles are linked to public transportation. As the link is overcrowded in a few regions and it is being operated through the concept of mileage, users of public bicycles are demanding the expansion of links. There are some foundations needed to expand the link between bicycles and public transportations. Firstly, a bicycle station should be located near a public train or bus station to enhance accessibility. Connected transportation cards, such as T-money cards are also necessary for the link. By expanding the link, the utility rate will be increased. Therefore, a link service can be a solution for the sustainability problem and public bicycles can be settled as a form
of public transportation.
Regulating Public Bicycle as Social Overhead Capital
As public bicycle use is separately operated by each local government, some problems have occurred. Although public bicycle rental is a large business, it is not systematically managed. Therefore, some claim that public bicycles should be regulated as Social Overhead Capital (SOC) for a united system. SOC are the public goods essential to produce and supply goods or services in the market. Trains, highways, and subways are examples of SOC. If pubic bicycles are regulated as SOC, the bicycle will be included in the government organization and its management will be more systematical. For example, a city that currently has the trouble of organizing distribution teams, in charge of relocating bicycles to the place with the high return rate, can be freed from such troublesome work when public bicycle rental becomes part of SOC, as in that case the bicycle system will become a government-affiliated organization. Like other SOC under the government, the bicycle
distribution team will be operated, and therefore previously irregular and insufficient distribution teams can get into order. As an example of SOC, Europe is running public bicycles with a united alliance called the European Cyclist’s Federation (ECF).
Continent of Bicycles, Europe
Europe is known as a continent of bicycles. Culture and infrastructure in Europe are well equipped and hence, its public bicycle schemes have been role models to other countries including Korea.
Bicycle Culture in Europe

news.naver.com/Velib, Public Bicycles of Paris

Riding bicycles is so commercialized i n E u ro p e t h a t people can even travel around the whole of Europe by riding bicycles. B e c a u s e o f t h e high oil prices and depreciation of the euro, the European government encourages people to ride bicycles to save energy and make this movement become a culture. Nowadays, Europe is called the continent of bicycles and is leading the bicycle culture. The reason Europe has become an advanced continent of bicycles is that it provides it provides an environment where people can ride bikes cheaply and safely. Europe gets sponsored by famous brands such as Nike to lessen the burden of citizen’s tax. Europe also regulates bicycle-only straight roads on streets where bicycle riders can safely enjoy riding without cars. Furthermore, there are
bicycle stations every 300m, unlike in Korea. Moreover, Europe has strict restrictions on bicycles, so if there are violations on regulations, such as riding bicycles on pedestrian roads or other vehicles on the bicycle-only road, people are forced to pay fines.
European Cyclist̕s Federation (ECF)
Europe’s public bicycle scheme is organized as a united association called the ECF. 39 countries within Europe joined as members of the ECF to lead the bicycle activation policy and arrange a construction policy. Moreover, the ECF is connecting cycle ways with Euro Bello, the network of roads that connect 70,000 km of cycle paths across Europe. By connecting cycle paths to Euro Bello, they have not only built traffic networks but also built linkage that goes through the whole of Europe. Through this system, accommodation and tourist attractions are well placed. Therefore, by offering well-equipped traveling courses, they have shown that people can travel the whole of Europe with a bike. As public bicycle use can be interchanged across cities, riders can use bicycles more conveniently and systematically in terms of the management aspect.

yonhapnews.co.kr/Euro Bello Connected with Bicycle Paths

The biggest difference between Europe and Korea is whether they actually care for the riders or not. It can be said that Europe has become an advanced continent of bicycles because it allows bicycles and people to coexist by considering users’ convenience. Bikeways, infrastructures, and regulations are all very important. There is, however, one thing that the government and people should keep in mind. That is willingness to change. Some people might wonder why they should use bicycles considering some of the controversial issues that can arise. It is true that people can just use other forms of transportation to go to work or have fun, but that way of thinking will bring nothing. Many things that have changed our world to be more affluent have also gone through the process of continuously fighting against these kind of questions. Therefore, awareness and open-mindedness toward social change might be helpful for the enhanced convenience of citizens.

이정현  cathie3526@naver.com

<저작권자 © THE SUNGKYUN TIMES, 무단 전재 및 재배포 금지>

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