October 11, 2002


Category: Cycling

MUNICH: This is one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Scattered around Munich are flourescent orange bikes, with phone numbers printed on the side, and a self locking mechanism on the rear wheel. If you need to get somewhere in a hurry, you can whip out your mobile phone, dial a particular number, and through the magic of GPS and text messaging, you will be informed of the location of the nearest "Dial a Bike" bicycle.

When you get to the bike, you punch in a code number on an LCD panel on the rear of the bike, and the locking mechanism unlatches. You can then cruise around Munich at your leisure for whatever number of minutes you paid for. When you're done, you just leave the bike wherever you happen to be. It will lock itself and await the next customer.

Encouraging the use of bicycles as everyday transportation is a brilliant philosophy for any city to endose. By providing safe and well marked bike lanes and paths all over the city, Munich has really done wonders in this department. I'm not sure if the "dial-a-bike" program is city run, or private, but either way, it's a sign of true brilliance.

Portland, Oregon attempted, several years ago, to establish a similar program called the "Yellow Bike Program". Dozens of Yellow Bikes were left all over the city, without locks, for the use of citizens. Unfortunately the program never really caught on. Not because people were stealing the bikes, though that may have played a factor, but because the city is a little too dispursed to make finding a bike on a regular basis reliable enough. Perhaps they should try again with Munich's system... though it will probably be years before American mobile phones are sufficiently advanced.

Posted by Nick at October 11, 2002 05:32 PM


Here we go! This is a test of the commenting system.

Posted by: Nick on October 11, 2002 05:34 PM

Spencer informs us:

I lived in Arcata, CA for a while, home of the crappy green bike program. The town couldn't quite afford free new bikes - so they just painted all the reject bikes they could salvage bright green. Flaws: no budget for maintenance of these shitty bikes; also, I found one once in town and rode home, which was wonderful. However, I probably left someone stranded at the grocery store. Also, by riding home, and I lived in the middle of nowhere - nobody ever took the bike away from me. I eventually had to ride into town on a non-rainy day and deliberately lose it.

Posted by: Nick on October 18, 2002 09:26 AM
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