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Bicycle sharing research project: Case study

Depo bv. (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

by Masa Matsuura

In the late 1960s, provocative Provo Party of Amsterdam started a movement to provide bicycles for anyone's use around the town. The action was led by Luud Schimmelpennink, who was elected to the seat of city council as the sole representative of Provo. He pushed forward the idea in the council, but in vein. Provo did some experiments of its own. This effort known as witfiets (white bike in Dutch) soon failed because of thefts and vandalism.
After witfiets, Schimmelpennink started a new system called witkar (white car in Dutch) in 1974. This was a quite sophisticated electoronic car sharing system, which sustained for several years until the program disbanded because of the lack of funds in 1980. These stories tells us how Luud Schimmelpennink was innovative in the field of urban transportation.
In 1999, he started a new witfiets program equipped with computer-operated locking/charging system, in collaboration with GBV, the city's transportation authority. Under this system, users purchase a chip card and pay a few Guilders for each use. At the time of lease, users register their destination so that the rack at the destination will have a open rack. Unfortunately, this project got suspended in 2001 (may not be correct; need to check) when GBV withdrew from the venture. The major problem was again the thefts. Locks on the rack broke when a few persons pulled the bike very hard. Currently, the system is not working, and bicycle racks have been removed (you can find the information poles still standing around Amsterdam).
Luud Schimmelpennink is now developing a totally new system in collaboration with a Dutch lock manufacturer: Axa. The new system will integrate the card-operated key lock on the bicycles. He plans to test this new system from February 2004 at a rental location next to city hall at Waterlooplein. If you have a chance to visit Amsterdam, watch out for it! Also, the bicycle will be the ones used in Germany's call a bike program for the convenience of users.
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