Krakow is planning to open an SMS-operated bike rental office in September to solve current transport problems. This investment, which does not involve plans for building new bicycle lanes, will be the first of its kind in Poland.
The authorities plan to purchase 100 bikes, which will be rented out via mobile phones and monitored for the sake of security via a GPS system.
City Bike Rental, Initiative 9.7 of the Civitas Caravel II project, is a solution that has proven successful in many European cities, including Berlin and Burgos. Its main objective, as Tomasz Zwolinski, a local project coordinator from the Department of Municipal Economy and Environmental Protection at the Krakow Municipality, is: ??to create a new cycling culture. The bicycle rental office would be easily accessible to both city residents and tourists. In my personal opinion, it would be good if this whole initiative worked on an ad hoc basis, so that one could take a bike from a particular place and then leave it in the other. All these places would be strictly specified, of course. Though, in the end, it may prove otherwise. We will test our plans in practice.?
For a start, city authorities are planning to buy 100 bikes. Each will have a simple construction and special cover for the back wheel, which can also be used for advertising purposes.
All bicycles will be provided with the necessary safety equipment required by law, e.g.: a set of lights and a stable carrier where luggage can be safely fastened.
Zwolinski says: ?All bikes will be of the same color. We are planning to fit them with an electronic lock with a chip, which will block and unblock a bicycle, provided that you enter a special code, of course. The electronic system will be operated by a company, which will handle the accounting of the system?s costs.
?Renting a bike will be simple: all you will have to do is send an SMS, via which you will be charged for renting the bike for a specific amount of time. Fifteen minutes before the rental time expires, your mobile will remind you that time is running out. Of course, you will be allowed to prolong the rental period should you choose to do so.?
Even if authorities? concerns regarding the level of social acceptance for this new method of commuting proves justified, Zwolinski says that: ??we believe that there is simply no other way. We need to try to convince people that this is the right choice and we cannot be anxious about their reactions. This also refers to the owners of private bike rental companies.
?Our project may be competition for them, but as the number of tourists visiting Krakow is increasing all the time, we are sure that the demand for bike rental services will grow. I do not think that our initiative will have any detrimental effects on private businesswa. We are planning to look for sponsors and use the bike as advertising space.?
The authors of the project have already chosen 6 provisional locations for the rental points. These are to be situated nearby Galeria Krakowska, Regional Bus Station, City Engineering Museum on ul. Sw. Wawrzynca, Galeria Kazimierz and the AGH Student Campus on al. 3 Maja. Each location will have 14 bicycles to rent; the remaining 16 vehicles will be held in reserve and delivered should the need arise.
According to Gazeta Polska, the cost of the project is an estimated 150,000 zloty. EU funds amounting to 80,000 zloty will be allotted for the purchase of the bicycles.
If the project proves to be as successful as it was in Berlin and Burgos, then the face of Krakow, the biggest tourist city in Poland, as well as the widespread belief in its alleged conservatism, may change for good.
The bicycles will help in improving the public transportation system, and also serve as an excellent advertisement vehicle.
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