June 20, 2013

Free Bicycle Sharing in Japan Runs Into Problems

A free bicycle sharing system in Takasaki, has become a victim of both popularity and poor planning.

The Taka-chari bicycle share program consists of 100 bicycles and 12 docking stations around the city of Takasaki.  Bicycles can be released from the docking stations for Y100 and that deposit is refunded when the bicycle is returned.

Unfortunately locals have been using the bicycles for commuting and leaving them parked outside schools, offices or at train stations for the entire day rather than returning them to docking stations making them unavailable to all, in particular tourists to whom the scheme was originally targeted.

In an attempt to deter commuters fro monopolising the bicycles, administrators of the scheme have postponed the daily opening time from 7am to 9am effectively avoiding morning rush hour.

How can a free scheme such as this avoid the problem of people not returning bicycles if there is no incentive to do so (or punishment for not doing so?) Raising the deposit price may be one solution, can you think if others?

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