Ashden is a sustainable energy charity that runs a prestigious annual Awards Ceremony in London. This year the keynote speaker was Al Gore and we had a winner in the sustainable travel category from China.
The project won the International Ashden Award for Sustainable Travel. The judging panel were clearly impressed, they said: “The scale and efficiency of this public bike hire scheme – a vital component of Hangzhou’s well-run integrated transport system – is like nothing we’ve seen elsewhere, dwarfing both London and Paris in scale. They are making cycling part of everyday life”
The city of Hangzhou in Zhejiang province decided to take positive action on air pollution to protect the health of its citizens by encouraging them to use its public bicycle hire service.
Hangzhou Bicycle Service is the biggest public bike share scheme in the world, thousands of bicycles have been rented for free more than 700 million times thanks to an innovative financial model.
Funded by the government, the project makes a profit – by selling the advertising rights on over 3000 bicycle sites and renting out the service kiosks – which is then used to cover staff salaries and maintain the service. The concept of public bicycles has since spread to 30 other provinces in China and some 207 cities nationwide.
The air pollution in China’s cities has been getting worse with more than 70 cities reaching dangerous levels last year. Hangzhou in Zhejiang Province is one such city. It has a population of almost eight million and is an important tourist destination within China with Hangzhou’s West Lake being a popular UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Bicycle Service has expanded from 2800 bicycles in 2008 to more than 85,000 bicycles in 2017, with around 350,000 hires per day, 96% of which are free of charge. Most bicycle journeys link to other public transport, so the whole integrated system reduces car use and greenhouse gases.
There are 3600 bicycle stands, 200-300 metres apart in much of the city. Prepaid electronic cards are used to hire the bicycles from stands. The same cards are usable across all public transport systems, including taxis. After paying a deposit, the first hour is free and a subsequent free hour can be gained by docking and undocking in a stand.