It seems that personal mobility is becoming more and more important for the majority of citizens. Certainly partly due to soaring oil prices but perhaps also the annoyance of being stuck in traffic instead of going with the flow.
When it comes to mobility concepts, the municipality of Bertrange is well aware of the need for change. Only last year their “soft mobility” (mobilité douce) got an upwind according to Frank Colabianchi, mayor of Bertrange:
“We knew we had to provide our citizens with an alternative. And once we got a sales proposal from the company Goedert S.A, we were instantly sold.”
Bertrange Mayor Frank Colabianchi
It wasn’t an overly quick decision to go for electronic bikes but the mayor knows the topology of Bertrange well:
“Those who know Bertrange know it’s uphill no matter where you go to. So the choice of a bike with an assisting motor seemed logical.”
With this first station in place it wouldn’t stop there. The pilot station was installed by Velo Center Goedert and the manufacturer is a Swiss company called WattWorld which also provides the Internet platform for its management. The BE-Bike project has been entirely financed by Bertrange. The overall maintenance will also be done by the commune. No need to clean, pump, or oil the chain. And for those who fear that the batteries will run out too quickly can relax as they last anywhere between 2-3 hours depending on your riding style. Should the battery be too low, the bike will not be released from the station.
Although the first station was installed right next to the main Municipal building, this bike concept is for everyone.
The Mayor was pretty clear on the need for a network of stations:
“If you would ask me if one station is enough, I can answer this with a clear NO. Which is why we have planned five stations in total and four of them are already operational:
Cactus Belle Etoile
Planned: Strassen les Thermes“
It might come as a surprise, but according to the mayor, this particular system was even cheaper then the Vel’Oh bike sharing system in Luxembourg City, which was initially considered due to its use in the neighbouring commune of Strassen.
But Mayor Colabianchi stresses the fact that the BE Bikes are to be seen as a complement and not competition to any other bike sharing systems in place.
Currently, it is free of charge for all. But after the initial grace period is over at the end of the year, the price will be 15 euro per year or 5 euro per week for a subscription, with the first hour for free, and 1 euro per additional hour.
“We wanted to keep the price as low as possible to make it accessible to virtually everyone. And the weekly scheme can be used if you have friends or family visiting.”
Carlo Cecchetto is the local technician who services the bikes:
“The bikes are hassle-free. All you need to do is place your card near the reader, take a bike and switch it on.”
Technician Carlo Cecchetto demonstrates how to rent a bike
The bikes are checked by the authorities to limit their speed to 25 km/hour. This is with the auxiliary motor. When you pedal, the bikes do tend to speed up to around 30km/h without any extra effort and, according to Cecchetto, in future they will not need to have their speed checked as long as the maximum speed is around 30km/h.
Integration of the network has been done well. Bertrange is part of DICI, an inter-municipality bike lane scheme with well over 38km of lanes linking the commune to its neighbours.
Once more towns adopt DICI, it may become possible to cross Luxembourg from east to west exclusively by bike lanes.
To promote use of the new system, the mayor assured us that he reminds not only citizens but also visitors to the commune of the availablility of BE Bike and other infrastructure.
“The cherry on top will be our “shared space” plan. A shared space is an urban design approach and we visited a Dutch city with that particular concept. The main central road will be the same for all traffic participants. Bikes, dogs, pedestrians, cars and anything else will be on one level. The only notification the users get are the speed bumps that level the terrain to the participants. Studies have proved that car-drivers were reducing their speed significantly when faced with such an out-of-the-ordinary situation… and believe me, Bertrange has been used and abused as a race track.”
In case you cannot cycle or don’t feel secure on a bike, the mayor suggests that you contact a cycling ssociation such as the LVI that can provide you with support. But he says that he could also see such cycling courses being offered in Bertrange and is open to requests from residents. With enough interest, the service could be organised.
I took a ride with Carlo Cechetto on the bikes and must say that it is a very pleasant feeling to get that little push uphill. Purists might say this is not what cycling is all about, but in the end isn’t any form of pedal revolution a step in the right direction?
-For more information you can visit the official BE Bike site here.-You can also listen to the audio interview of 9:06 minutes (in Luxembourgish) with the mayor, which was broadcast on Radio 100,7 on July 1st, 2013.