Sunday, May 22, 2011

Tel-O-Fun bike rental scheme goes live

Starting this month you can now rent a bike in Tel Aviv just like in London or Paris. The Tel Aviv Municipality invested NIS 100 million ($25 million) in the so called Tel-O-Fun rent a bike scheme. More then 2,000 green bikes are now available throughout Tel Aviv in docking stations scattered around town. The system is very similar to the Vélib in Paris or the Barclays Cycle Hire in London. It works with credit cards or an electronic key and it's free for the first 30 minutes. Then from 31 minutes to 90 minutes you have to pay NIS 5 and for a full day, you will pay NIS 14. But docking the bike for just 10 minutes resets the clock allowing you in effect to go from place to place for free.

Tel Aviv-Jaffa Economic Development Authority CEO Sharon Kenan explains that Tel-Ofan has begun with 40 stations and 450 subscribers, expanding daily to reach an eventual goal of 150 stations with up to 20 German-made bicycles each.

Kenan's staff worked on Tel-Ofan for three years before rolling it out. One of the trickiest operational details was how to make sure that when somebody comes to a station there will always be a bike available in good condition, and that the station of destination will always have a free docking place. That problem was tackled with the assistance of mathematicians at Tel Aviv University, who established formulas after researching typical bike-riding patterns in the city. Based on those formulas, trucks will patrol the rental stations on a regular basis, balancing supply and demand.

Another major challenge, according to Kenan, was to ensure a completely stable information technology system managing the project under the hood. And to deal with possible theft, damage and vandalism of the bike fleet, the EDA put both physical and electronic safeguards into action. Now that all the pieces are in place, the next step is to physically accommodate the expected increase in bicyclists. To answer this need, the municipality is investing many millions of shekels to add to its existing 65 miles of bike lanes.

"In the last five years, we've invested 10 million shekels per year in constructing bike lanes, and for the next five years the municipality has tripled the budget for this project," says Kenan. "Strategically, the ultimate goal is to increase awareness of bikes as a means of transportation and increase the number of people using them, which will substantially reduce traffic problems and air pollution."

You can find more details and the map of all available docking stations on the official website at http://www.tel-o-fun.co.il/en. Happy cycling!

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