The City of Athens has inaugurated the Greek capital’s first bicycle rental station at the Technopolis cultural complex in Gazi, downtown Athens.
Athens Bikes is a shared bicycle scheme that works with prepaid cards like the ones to be found in many cities across Europe.
The reasoning behind the scheme is simple: to offer residents and visitors the opportunity to use bikes for short trips around the center, doing away with the need for motorized transport. In this way, traffic in the city can be significantly reduced (if enough bicycles are made available for use).
The circulation of more bicycles on the roads has a positive effect on drivers of other vehicles, prompting them to reduce speeds and so contributing to a decrease in road accidents. Anyone can use a bicycle after getting a personal Athens Bikes card from the shop at Technopolis and paying for the amount of time you think you will need it for.
The card, which requires the presentation of an identity card or passport, is used to identify the user in the system. The first half hour of use is free and every half hour after that costs 50 cents. The maximum duration of continuous use is three hours. If you don’t return the bike – return is confirmed by placing it back in the electronic bike stand – the user, in whose name the card is issued, can be charged 400 euros if it is found that the bike was stolen.
For the time being, bikes must be returned to the stands at Technopolis, but it should just be a matter of time before more stations appear around Athens as the scheme is embraced by more people.
Several cities in Europe run such bike sharing schemes, many of which were introduced out of the need to provide an alternative means of transport to cars or motorcycles. This has had knock-on effects of reducing the wear and tear of roads and cutting the number of accidents while improving people’s health, according to surveys by the European Union.
Athens is a city that is well-suited to bicycle use: Pangrati, Patissia, Kolonos, the historic center and Metaxourgeio are the flattest districts. In all of these areas, if the number of cars is reduced and the use of bicycles is increased, we would undoubtedly enjoy a better quality of life.
The pilot bike sharing scheme by the City of Athens does not pretend to solve all the city’s traffic and pollution problems, but it’s a step in the right direction.