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Publication Date : 24-10-2012
In less than a week, the first 100 bicycles will be ready to rent as part of a project in the heart of Bangkok designed to get commuters to use pedal power, making ours a greener world and reducing traffic congestion.
"I'm glad such a good project is coming up," Dr Thongchai Panswad, chairman of the Thai Cycling for Health Association, said yesterday.
The initiative would be a good way to get people to start thinking about riding around on two wheels, he said.
"The pilot phase of this project will start on [Sunday] October 28," said Amorn Kitchawengkul, managing director of Krungthep Thanakom Company, the investment arm of the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration.
The project will expand to 50 stations with 330 bikes in only four months. Only single-seat models would be offered. The stations would be open every day from 6am to midnight.
Krungthep Thanakom has tried many times but always failed to promote greater use of bicycles in the capital in recent years. For example, its bicycle lanes have been largely ignored.
"If there were proper bicycle lanes in the capital, I would bike to any destination of up to 13 kilometres," a Bangkok resident said. "Bicycling is a great way to avoid traffic jams."
The company is now hoping to breathe new life into its bicycling campaign by emulating Velib, the highly successful large-scale, short-time public bicycle sharing system in Paris.
With more than 1,800 stations and 23,000 bicycles, Velib could sharply reduce the use of private cars in the French capital.
"During the first phase, our project will have one rental station near the subway's Chamchuri Square station and another one near the Skytrain's Siam station," Amorn said.
The cycles can be returned to any rental station.
"By February, we will have 50 stations around Bangkok," he said.
The bicycles are free for the first 15 minutes, 10 baht (US$0.32) for the next 45 minutes and 20 baht for three hours.
"The fee will rise to 40 baht by the fifth hour and 60 baht by the sixth hour. For one-day use, the rental fee is 100 baht," he said.
This includes insurance.
"There's coverage for both bicyclists and third parties," he said.
People would have to pay a 300-baht ($9) membership fee first to rent one of the 8,000-baht bicycles.
Thongchai said authorities should periodically assess people's needs to ensure the project receives a warm welcome. If authorities constantly improve the project, it would work.
"It takes decades for bicycle-for-commuting projects in other big cities to become successful. During that period, parties must make proper and well-rounded preparations," he said.
Ajjima Meepring, a cycling-for-commuting activist, said she was happy that City Hall had pushed the project through.
"Bicycles can complement transportation systems and reduce pollution too," she said.
But like Thongchai, she was worried about designated pathways in the capital.
"Without the bicycle lanes, the users don't feel safe," she said.