While working in Jakarta, I had the opportunity to take a day trip to Bandung. What I saw in Bandung taught me something. Not something that will work in Jakarta but something that can work in other communities. A community based bicycle sharing system that works. Bandung is an oasis outside of Jakarta that is a breeding ground of the arts and innovation. It has a different feeling. Overrun by Jakartans on the weekend and holidays or “a victim of our own tourism”, Bandung has soft and sensitive side that is not seen in Jakarta. What’s happening there is a bicycle sharing program that defies almost every rule of my ‘how to’ cocktail.
I’ve been working almost exclusively in bicycle sharing for about three years now and on and off for the last 5. I’ve come to think of the IT interface, RFID chips and real-time information flow as the norm, not the exception. What’s taken bicycle sharing from a nitch social experiment and turned it into an urban mainstay does not even excite me anymore, I actually avoid the topic at cocktail parties (almost as much as I avoid cocktail parties). That’s not to say I don’t love what I do!
I was recently working in Jakarta on setting up a fully-automated pretty size-able third generation bicycle sharing system; This system is intended to showcase Asian bicycle sharing best practices in a city that most would say is as probable to have a bicycle sharing system as the moon.
Initiated by Ridwan Kamil who started our conversation with the comment that, ‘the city officials have no vision’ – I like this guy already. Mr. Kamil has single-handedly started a small modest 2nd generation community bicycle sharing system. He has brought together the community and scrounged up some bicycles that were left over from a conference, lobbied his Alma Mater to finance the stations, borrowed electricity and even got permission from the city who put up more obstacles than there are motorcycles in Jakarta.
What you have is a bicycle sharing scheme that caters to mostly recreational users, but also some commuters. A large amount of the bicycles are used daily and almost all are rented out on the weekend. While Mr. Kamil would love to see a 3rd generation, fully automated system he has first hand experience in how difficult it is to get the one key ingredient – political support.