Taipei City in innovating with the (very fast) deployment of the “U-bike” system, almost identical to the Vélib‘ system launched in Paris with great success on 15 July 2007. The service provider is Taishin Bank (!), the bikes themselves are manufactured by local world leader Giant and the payment system is managed by TSCC. The U-Bikes will initially only be available in the Taipei Xinyi district with a roll out to more locations planned for later in 2009
As of 2007, similar schemes are also in effect in other European cities, including Aix-en-Provence, Caen (V’eol), Rouen, Barcelona (Bicing), Bari, Brussels, Copenhagen, Luxembourg (Vel’oh), Lyon (Vélo’v), Nantes (Bicloo), Toulouse, Marseille Stockholm, Pamplona (Cemusa), OYBike, Call a Bike (Berlin, Frankfurt, Cologne, Stuttgart, Munich, Karlsruhe), Copenhagen/Helsinki/Aarhus (CIOS), Oslo, Sandnes, Seville (Sevici) and Vienna. Schemes have also been proposed for London, Melbourne and Dublin. However, it is remarkable that U-bike is probably the first bike hire program in the world where your standard transit pass card is used to hire the bikes as well, thus making them an extension of the city wide public transport system.
What is certainly interesting in the case of Taipei is that “U-bike” becomes the 4th application of the now ubiquitous EasyCard launched in 2002 and managed by TSCC (Taipei Smart Card Corporation, founded in 2000), after (1) MRT and buses, (2) public parking lots, and (3) park meters on the street. The 10 million contactless cards (Mifare technology) are getting more and more popular in the Taipei area, and close to reaching the popularity of its Hong-Konguee counterpart Octopus. Payment in taxis with Easycard was abandoned after a not-so-successful trial in year 2004, and is now replaced by the Visa Paywave application (see previous post).
Taiwan is definitely comforting its position to potentially become for world leader for NFC deployment, with the 3 main mobile network operators launching their NFC services at the end of 2009, and a number of contactless schemes and infrastructures the densest in the world: Easycard, Visa Paywave, MasterCard Paypass, JCB J/speedy, MOS burger, Q-pay (7-ELEVEN), and more to come.
With very attractive prices (1st 30 minutes: Free, and every additional 15 minutes: NT$ 10 (USD 0.3 or EUR 0.25)), hopefully the “U-bike” initiative will make life in Taipei easier and healthier, and help the case for a fast and massive adoption NFC !