Changwon’s Public Bikes Lead Green Trend

The government pledged in 2009 to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent over the next 10 years following increasing calls for countries to do more to halt global warming. Even provincial governments have rolled up their sleeves to reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The southern port city of Busan, for example, is pushing to generate power through methane gas from landfills and using solar cells, while Incheon, another port city west of Seoul, plans to replace electric motors in sewage and water-purification facilities with more efficient machines.

The most notable among such cities is Changwon in southeastern Korea, which has gained wide public support for its initiative to lower greenhouse gas emissions. In 2008, Changwon started a public bicycle rental scheme which has racked up a total of 4.63 million uses. Statistically that means every one of the city’s 1.08 million residents used the system at least four times.

People pay an annual membership fee of W20,000 (US$1=W1,123) for access to 4,630 public bikes parked at 230 terminals in the city. At present, around 70,000 people have signed up.

The bicycles are equipped with GPS and their positions can be tracked in real time, making it possible to rent them 24 hours a day anywhere in the city. That is why they are being used by many students to go to school and even by part-time chauffeurs after dropping off other people’s cars.

In a survey last year, 95.6 percent of Changwon citizens rated the system positively. The number of users per day doubled each year (6,118 in 2010 and 12,688 in 2011), attesting to its popularity.

Changwon city has also taken other measures to encourage the use of the two-wheelers. It pioneered bicycle insurance in the country, implemented an incentive system for workers using the bike, and designated a bicycle-riding day.

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