Bike-sharing stations: Not "how many", how well placed (Paris vs Seoul)
I actively agree with the implementation of the 'Bike-sharing' project as a method of transportation in the city center. With great interest in the urban changes towards sustainable cities, I have been subscribing and using Vélib(the bike-sharing system in Paris) since 2019 in Paris, France. As a Korean designer, I tend to compare things in Paris with those in Seoul. Here are some of my point of view on the comparison of the bike-sharing system. I would like to share ideas that might be helpful for the cities that have a plan to install the bike-sharing system for the first time.
First of all, what do you think of the purpose of the bike-sharing system in the city? Getting off the public transportation and connecting it to the destination after that? Reducing the number of cars and motorcycles in the city? Or a "necessary policy" to go to an eco-friendly city? As far as I'm concerned, it could all be true. At the same time, I have another different idea.
"The most important purpose of having the bike-sharing system in the city is to increase accessibility to the stations so that users can use themselves as easy/many as possible."
In that sense, it is not wrong to say to place the bike station nearby subway station or bus stop for the high floating population. On the other hand, what if there is no bike-sharing station near your destination, there will be no advantage for you to ride it. Even though the idea of bike-sharing system is still good, it could be an irrelevant policy without any station in your district. Yes, new urban idea takes a time in order to verify effectiveness. However, cities had better have the right phased plans to prepare for unexpected problems by over-expanding their business in "post-bicycle era".
The city, Seoul is about 6 times bigger than Paris. Therefore relatively in Paris, the gap between public transportation stations, such as subways and buses, isn't so far each other, and some streets have good proximity to walk or to ride bicycles. It literally makes no sense to compare the two cities directly, but I would like to mention the interesting differences in bike-sharing network.
The image above is a comparison of maps of a district (tendency of residential areas) in Seoul and Paris with the location of shared bicycle rental stations. Each circle shows the size of the radius, meaning 200 meters in red and 300 meters in sky blue. And it shows how much the bike stations actually cover the cities.
There are more important things than just the number of stations comparison between two cities. First, the accessibility. The use of bike-sharing should not just be a means of adding options to public transportation, it had better focus on the role of facilitating access to urban social functions. There may be policy-driven oversupply leading to "post-bicycle era of chaos." Second, social-based distribution. The social culture, where communication between cities and citizens is based, can be absorbed in a smaller area of the zone much more in the right direction, than in a mega-city like Seoul. Even because bike-sharing service seems like "using sharing services" than "riding bicycles," inhabitant-cenetric infrastructure plans are needed. Even if not a huge area covered, a reasonable approach is needed, such as placing each station's location at a place that considers the living radius of the inhabitants. Because it's the reason why we should analyze the behaviour patterns creatively first rather than making a "theoretical" plan on the map.
For bike-sharing users, bicycles are getting closer to "using" city services than to "riding". So for the cities in the early stages of the bike-sharing system, not only phased plans in numbers are needed but more importantly, users' purpose-based plan is encouraged.