Words of Wisdom From London’s Bike-Share Chief

London launched its bike-share system in 2010, and it looks like New York’s experience so far isn’t so different from theirs. Animal New York went straight to the source to speak with Nick Aldworth, general manager of London’s Barclays Cycle Hire, who offers some words of wisdom for New Yorkers adjusting to Citi Bike.

“I’ve read some of the things that have been said in New York, and I recognize them from when we were doing the same thing,” he said, recalling London’s own NIMBY opposition to station placement in historic neighborhoods and overblown concerns about safety.

Citi Bike’s first days have seen some technical problems with glitchy docks and stations, and some distribution problems — early reports suggest that Midtown tends to have pronounced bike shortages at times. Aldworth says London is no stranger to the occasional un-docked Barclays bike, and that the greater challenge is managing the distribution.

“Redistribution is the key,” he says. “Once you have thousands of thousands of people cycling around, I think the negativity will quickly go away, but that challenge of redistribution won’t.”

Bike redistribution is an ongoing task for bike-share systems in the U.S. as well. In Boston, the Hubway system uses three Sprinter vans carrying 22 bikes each to move bikes between the system’s 108 stations, with staff working two shifts from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Hubway general manager Scott Mullen told Streetsblog that as more people use the system over time, usage patterns begin to emerge. “Because you know what’s going on, you can set the system up for success,” he said. “You’re not putting out fires.” Mullen added that sometimes, a station is nearly empty or nearly full intentionally, because Hubway staff will move bikes in advance of rush hour or a big event.

DOT announced today that Citi Bike had passed 100,000 trips in its first ten days. As more people use the system and it expands to more neighborhoods, rebalancing will become even more important.

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