We love to share, don’t we? We share a meal, share a story, share a post on Facebook. Sharing spreads our joy and expands our experiences. Sharing is caring.
So what about bikes? Dare we share them? I’m happy to share my bikes with friends if they don’t happen to possess their own. But what about to the public? I suppose it’s really more of a rental system, isn’t it? We can only share something if we own it in some form.
Semantics aside, I bring this up because I’ve recently learned of a great initiative, a marvelous movement, a tremendous undertaking occurring behind the scenes in Penang. This initiative is called Penang Bike Share.
This is all part of a master plan, part of a grand scheme to create an image for Penang, to make the very name of Penang synonymous with anything to do with cycling. The current chief minister has himself stated that it is his vision that Penang become the cycling state of Malaysia, and perhaps even the most prominent cycling hub in all South East Asia.
Basically, it’s good news for cycling enthusiasts. Well, mostly good. I foresee a few who might not want to contend with throngs of cyclists flooding their hitherto private cycle routes. But there’s much good to be had and much work to be done still.
Now, one big question:
Well, why not? The basic idea is really quite simple: you visit your nearest Bike Share station, scan your card and extract a bike, ride wherever you want however you like (safely please), then deposit the bike at the most convenient Bike Share station and you’re free to go about your business.
No need to worry about parking. No need to worry about securing your bike. You save on petrol, and you feel a little better inside. Assuming you didn’t wallop too many donuts on the way.
Of course that’s in an ideal world. The reality is much more complicated, as it so often is. Let’s have a look at some issues that may have already come to mind.
What should I do if there is no Bike Share facility near my start and/or finish point?
A pertinent point indeed. Like any public transport system, commuters have to have easy access to the network.
The little red bikemen are all the proposed bike stations. As you’ll notice they are all centred around the core Georgetown area, as the area is most suited and also most in need of bicycle travel, or at least some alternative to cramming your car into the narrow lanes between pedestrians and bustling shops. Hopefully if the project goes well they may attempt to expand the network further out.
If only your starting point is near a Bike Share spot, then you might have to hang on to the bike until you can make the return trip to your original station, which isn’t too bad unless you plan on doing copious overtime at work. The shared bikes can be remotely locked so if you hog it for too long you might be stuck with a lump of metal at the end of the day.
If there’s a Bike Share station near your end point, perhaps you can catch the bus (or God forbid, drive) to the nearest Bike Share hub and cycle from there. It’s for a good cause, no?
What happens if something goes wrong with my bike?
Having utilised and tinkered with many a bike in my time, I don’t even want to think about the amount of maintenance involved in making sure hundreds of bikes function. That said, it has been done and it also creates lots of job opportunities for the mechanically gifted and those who like to get down and dirty. Wait, that sounds wrong…black and greasy? Oiled up and good to go?
Of course Penang Bike Share can’t guarantee that nothing will go awry with the bicycle that you pick up. But they plan to make sure it doesn’t occur very often. And even when you do encounter some unforeseen circumstances, Bike Share will be prepared.
They’ve got personnel on hand to attend to any issues that may arise, and they even plan to have bicycle repair outlets attached to some of their stations so you can fix it up yourself!
At worst, you can detour to the nearest Bike Share, hand the problematic rascal to them, and take off with a new set of wheels between your legs.
What if it rains or I don’t like the humidity and the harsh sun or I just can’t stand being exposed to the environment and the world at large?
Drink some concrete and make sure you’re well equipped for the journey.
You can obtain compact waterproof hooded jackets that easily fit into little pouches. Bring a towel to mop up any excess sweat or to dry yourself off if you have access to shower facilities (did I mention they’re setting up a whole bunch of those around town too?). If it’s incredibly sunny outside, then slip slop slap! And sunglasses definitely help.
If you just don’t like going outdoors in general, then…
So why am I doing this public service announcement? I’ve got my own bike, I don’t need to hire a bicycle to get around. Because if Penang is to become great in anything, not just cycling, then it will need the support of all its passionate citizens. Penang Bike Share is a colossal project, and it is going to rely on us – the users, the locals, the people – if it is to succeed.
So go out there and share the joy of riding! And share those roads if you have to drive. And while you’re at it, check out Penang Bike Share’s fancy website, with lots of pretty pictures of Penang! Peace out!