Wednesday, April 30, 2008


A friend of mine recently told me of her trip to Spain. She was excited about their public transportation system, and more specifically about this SmartBike system in Barcelona. Now just yesterday I saw on the news that the same SmartBike system has come to the United States. In Washington D.C., users can pay an annual fee of $40 that grants them access to a number of SmartBike bicycles. These bikes, located in strategic places throughout the city (usually in places of high traffic, business districts, shopping areas, and tourist markets), are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at no additional cost to the user.

Next, just wave the SmartBike user card in front of the card reader at the station and it will assign you a bike, unlocking it, and you're on your way. also says that because the user cards and card readers use radio frequencies, you may not even have to take the card out of your wallet or purse.

There is a time limit on the rental of the bike, though. Yet in the same time that you return your used bike, you can pick up a new one. It's that simple. Users are responsible for their bikes while in use; and since user cards are used to rent and return bikes, those cards can be used to identify whether or not a user has returned their bike. A three hour time limit has been posted on use of smartbikes. And should your bike not be returned within 48 hours, you will be charged the cost of the bike. That said, I am glad they do put at least some responsibility in the hands of the SmartBike users. It being such a great deal and terrific solution to some traffic issues, I'm sure people won't mind.

The news report I saw commented on how the SmartBike system in Barcelona--the one my friend saw on her trip--had grown from 1,500 bikes to 6,000 bikes. The SmartBike website ( says that Barcelona now has 80,000 registered users with each bike being used an average of 12.5 times per day, and that through the SmartBike program an annual savings of 2,500 tons of CO2 is achieved.

SmartBikes aren't only being used in Barcelona, Spain and Washington D.C. either. SmartBikes can be found in France (Caen, Dijon, Perpignan, and Rennes), Norway (Drammen, Oslo, and Trondheim), and Sweden (Gothenburg and Stockholm).

If all goes well with this trial run in Washington D.C., we could very well start seeing more SmartBikes on our city streets. And with it being such a smart and eco-friendly solution to the problem of automobile emissions, I think we can all breathe a bit easier knowing that at least someone is not only helping the environment, but trying to help with the issue of auto traffic as well.


Nicolet said...

gotta brag here - the Dutch did the bicycle thing forever and a year ago! and now Philly has a similar deal with umbrellas - so cute!

Fenton said...

That's cool. It's good to see people starting these programs. Hopefully we can see more popping up.