The local government in Bangkok will soon be launching a new project to allow the public to “borrow-rent” bicycles using an automated system. The Bangkok Governor said that he was concerned by traffic congestion and the rising number of cars on the roads. He sees the importance of encouraging people to use public mass transportation instead of their cars. Bangkok already has the BTS Skytrain and the MRT Subway systems but they are not very extensive yet. So, encouraging people to use bicycles instead of their car is a leap in the right direction.
The first two pilot stations are at MRT Sam Yan (in front of Chamchuri Square) and BTS Siam (in front of Bangkok Bank). At each station there are eight bikes locked in the bicycle racks. In total there are 100 bicycles being used in this test stage. As everything is automated, they will be able to see if one of the stations is running out of bikes. They can then “top-up” the station with more bikes if necessary. Their plan is to have 50 such stations around Bangkok by February 2013 with up to 500 bicycles available to “borrow-rent”.
To be able to use these bikes you need to register for this RFID smart card. These were given out for free today to members of the media and also for anyone else who attended the opening ceremony this morning. From what I understand, no-one else will be able to sign up for these cards until February 2013 while the system is being tested and fully prepared. The price on the receipt was 320 Baht which was broken down as follows: 120 Baht for the RFID smart card, 100 Baht credit on the card and 100 Baht membership for one year.
I am planning on testing out these bicycles soon. From the information that I have so far, it is free for the first 15 minutes. This is just enough time to go between BTS Siam and MRT Sam Yan. If you go over this time then it is 15 Baht for the first hour. The longer you have the bike the cheaper it will be. It is 20 Baht for three hours, 40 Baht for five hours and 60 Baht for six hours. For one day the rental fee is 100 Baht. The rental fee includes full insurance. The above picture shows the RFID chip that stores your data. It is also the lock for the bike station.
For this bicycle project to work they need it to be easy to use and accessible to everyone. Having 50 bike stations at the official launch in February will certainly be good. But, the way it stands at the moment, it is really only of interest to local Thai people and expats living in Bangkok. They need to make it more attractive for foreign tourists as well for it to be truly successful. Foreigners can use their passport to register but who would want to pay 320 Baht when they might only be here for a few days? On top of this they have to pay rent. But, I truly hope that this project is successful and that they eventually go beyond 50 bike stations.