Expansion of Shared Bicycle Services Gathers Pace

By Ogo, Shuji | The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan), March 20, 2016 | Go to article overview

Expansion of Shared Bicycle Services Gathers Pace


Ogo, Shuji, The Daily Yomiuri (Toyko, Japan)


Bicycle rental services are expanding and becoming easier with the introduction of such conveniences as reservations by smartphone, delivery of a bike to a user's desired location, and payment via prepaid IC cards.

In the past, bike rental services mainly targeted tourists, and most were based in well-known sightseeing areas. In recent years, however, bicycle rentals have become more popular for everyday uses such as shopping and commuting to work or school.

Rental services known as "community cycle" or "cycle sharing" are currently experiencing a surge in popularity.

They allow users to rent a bicycle for a one-way trip, picking up the bike from one of the various "cycle ports" throughout the designated service area and returning it to a port in a different location. After registering with the service, customers can rent a bike anytime 24 hours a day, paying rental fees by credit cards in many cases.

"Chiyo-cle" -- a bicycle sharing service run in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward since 2014 by NTT Docomo Inc. in partnership with the ward government -- offers rental and returns at around 40 locations throughout the ward, making the picking up and dropping off of the bikes smooth and convenient.

After registering for the service online, users of Chiyo-cle can unlock bicycles at bicycle ports by passing membership cards over scanners. Rental fees are set at rates such as 150 yen for 30 minutes (excluding tax).

Chiyo-cle's members-only website shows a map marked with locations of bicycle docking ports, as well as the number of bicycles available at each location. Reservations are possible on the website if made within 30 minutes before the desired rental time.

Similar bike-sharing services are also available in three other Tokyo wards, including Koto Ward, as well as in Yokohama and Sendai.

Bike parking lot operator ArchiM's, together with SoftBank Corp. and other collaborators, has operated "Share Bike Minaport" in Kyoto since October 2015.

Through the service's exclusive smartphone application, users can specify any location in the city to have a rental bike delivered to them. …

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