champagne anarchist | armchair activist

Bike share in Amsterdam: who benefits

Over the past weeks, Amsterdam has been flooded by rogue bike share bicycles that can be rented with a smartphone app. Big business, according to newspaper het Parool. Amsterdammers responded to this commercial junk by placing bicycles at bulky waste disposal sites. The municipality has announced it will remove all bike share bicycles, and subsequently regulate the market.

What should a new policy look like? The use of public space must be properly regulated, as well as the quality of the bicycles. It would be nice if availability and usage data would be made available as open data through an API. Further, many people are asking whether the bicycles are meant for tourists or for Amsterdammers. The next question that should be asked: will they benefit all Amsterdammers?

American research has shown that residents of lower-income neighbourhoods are interested in bike share. Nevertheless, the bicycles are primarily used by rich, white residents. Some cities and operators do try to make the system accessible to all residents.

In Amsterdam, bike hire operator Donkey Republic focuses mainly on the central areas of the city - at least, that’s what their map suggests (the map doesn’t show actual bike locations, but it does show how they present themselves). Competitor Hello Bike focuses exclusively on the Zuidas business district.

Of course, this is not specific for bike sharing. More people ride bicycles in the richer central areas of the city than in the peripheral areas anyway. But if permits for bike share operators are to be introduced, you might as well require them to make their product attractive for and accessible to all Amsterdammers.

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