What do white bikes, The Beatles and Deutsche Bank have in common?
Bike sharing. Yes, that’s right.
You may have seen a bike sharing dock. You may have used one, or even more. They are present almost everywhere – in Lugano, where CLARA is based, we use them almost constantly. If you’re pressed for time and came to town by foot, nothing is easier than grabbing a bike and leaving it at a dock closer to your destination. As a bonus – some of the bikes we have are electric and make uphill travel less of a struggle!
Right next to the CLARA office - a dock for shared bicycles
But we’re not here to talk about e-bikes (more about them next week). We’re here to talk about bike sharing, and the wonderful way it’s evolved in just a few decades.
The first bicycle-share actually originated in – surprise, surprise – Amsterdam. During the 1960’s, this beautiful city was overrun by cars. People were sure they were the future, but they were congesting streets and polluting the neighbourhoods. A man called Luud Schimmelpennink decided to paint a bike white and leave it in public to be used by anybody that needed it.
A simple idea, that failed almost immediately as the white bike went missing.
John Lennon and Yoko Ono with White Bike at the Amsterdam Hilton in 1969 – from PROVOking the birth of bike sharing
Still, it was enough for a start.
CLARA was formed on the idea of making cyclists and pedestrians safer in traffic. Bike-sharing was formed on the idea that traffic would be safer for everybody if more of it was done by bike. Safety seems to be the connection here – bikes excluded, of course.
How did it finally make it? With the help of a lot of patience, hard work, visionary investments and a bit of luck. Kicking off in Vienna and moving on to Paris in 2007 (they now have over 20 000 shared bikes there - wow), bicycle sharing has become a world-wide presence. You can read more about the tale here.
Fun fact – despite being the world cycling capital (according to many sources) and the place where bicycle sharing was actually invented, Amsterdam doesn’t have any -at least in the traditional sense. You can rent bikes from private bike-sharing companies but be aware these are not government-controlled or coordinated. Rent at your own risk (or so we are told).
Needless to say, bike sharing is a big part of the cycling infrastructures in cities. Some of the hubs are listed here, and some of them are integral to tourism. Feel free to check online before you go globetrotting – sometimes you only need to register before having a transportation vehicle of your (shared) own on another side of the world.
When bike sharing first began, it was a difficult thing to keep track of the bicycles themselves. Today, even with the available tracking and surveillance, it can be hard to make sure they're treated right. Imagine all the small steps it took for you to be able to take one away by clicking on an app or swiping a card!
Like the idea of bike-sharing, CLARA is based on the vision of a better future. We don’t let a stolen bike get in our way, and we really with we could give one of our vests to John Lennon. It’s white and it flashes – we’re sure he would love it.
You will too, so don’t forget to stay on top of our feed! Our Kickstarter campaign is almost a-go!