Commentary: Bike Share Dreams, Programs and Strategies for Penang

Penang. May 18, 2015. The Star Online –

Penang Bike Share project postponed due to slow take-up rate

Opening text:

velib-guy-l-rThe island’s target of being the first state to have a bicycle sharing system or rent a bike has hit a speed bump.

The company which won a Penang Island City Council (MBPP) tender to create the system has postponed the launch of the project, which was supposed to roll out this month.

Public Bike Share Sdn Bhd chief executive officer and founder Hubert Fong said he was concerned that the take-up rate for bike commuting among Penangites was too slow for the system to be in demand.

“We need more people to be willing to use bicycles for commuting. Although we see more people getting on board, the numbers are growing too slowly,” he said.

The project was supposed to have 25 stations, 1,000 bicycle docks and 500 bicycles.

Fong, who did not give a new launch date, said: “We want to launch with a big impact. We don’t want it to be a white elephant.

Full text continues at –

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Editor’s commentary:

It sounds to me as if this delay for reflection is probably quite sensible. More than 1000 public bicycle projects in cities around the world later, and very few mysteries remain when it comes to determining the difference between success and failure of a public bike project

For anyone who needs to get up to speed on this quickly, we can firmly recommend The Bike-Share Planning Guide of the ITDP which you can find at

To make a long story short, there are basically two kinds of systems, let’s call them play and work. A “play” bike sharing system is quite small and which is aimed specifically at tourists and visitors in a carefully defined tourists perimeter —  which suggests that The George Town heritage site might be a good candidate for such a limited system. (though we also will do to bear in mind that very similar services are presently being provided by private sector cycling entrepreneurs. Which also has to be taken into consideration in coming to a final winning strategy.)

The only problem with that in the present context is that the targeted use area needs to be carefully restructured for safe cycling, including for tourists who may not only be not familiar with the heritage site but also not all that familiar with cycling itself. It is a doable deal, but as is always the case requires careful preparation and technical expertise to ensure safety and usability.

As to a full-scale citywide public bicycle project of the sort that we are increasingly seeing many parts of the world, it strikes me that the planning authorities need to make considerable progress to ensure safe and agreeable cycling. There is plenty of world-class expertise available to help you with this — write me a note and I will give you a list of recommended partners — but the real leg work needs to be done in Penang. No free lunches.

So there are times when the decision to pause and rethink is probably the right decision. This looks like one of them.

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itdp bike-share guide

About the editor: 

Eric Britton
13, rue Pasteur. Courbevoie 92400 France

Bio: Founding editor of World Streets (1988), Eric Britton is an American political scientist, teacher, occasional consultant, and sustainability activist who has observed, learned, taught and worked on missions and advisory assignments on all continents. In the autumn of 2019, he committed his remaining life work to the challenges of aggressively countering climate change and specifically greenhouse gas emissions emanating from the mobility sector. He is not worried about running out of work. Further background and updates: @ericbritton | | #fekbritton | | and | Contact: | +336 508 80787 (Also WhatApp) | Skype: newmobility.)

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