Bristol Gets a Pay As You Go Bicycle Rental System

hourbike bristol photo
Image from Cool Bikes Blog

Bristol is the first city in the UK to get a pay-as-you-go bicycle rental scheme. Called "hourbike", it has just been introduced on a very small scale across the city. There are four hubs and 18 bikes.

The price is right--cheaper than the Velib in Paris--but there are not enough pick-up points yet to make it really work well. The other big problem seems to be that Bristol is a very hilly town. It's controversial; in a recent article in the Guardian there were 100 comments on this subject...

Image from Cool Bikes Blog

Many of the commenters insist that Bristol was the wrong place to introduce the concept because it has so many steep hills. Others defend Bristol's reputation as "Cycle City" and insist that the kinks need to be worked out, as in any new system.

However there are a lot of kinks. Compared to the roll-out in Paris or Barcelona, there are very few bikes and very few locations. A critical mass is needed to get people wedded to the bicycle-rental idea. In addition, vandalism is a serious matter and the bikes are not parked in a secure, covered location. They are parked in what looks like a normal bike rack. This could prove to be huge problem. The durability of the bicycles will also be an issue.

There is a one time £10 charge to join, the first half hour is free and then it is £1 for every subsequent hour. For the time being those wanting to use the bikes on a spontaneous basis cannot: they have to register online first and wait for a card.

Let's hope that Bristol works out the problems and introduces the scheme on a scale large enough to make it a success.