A V Lowe
Yep the Bixi is a well conceived system – not much differnt from the bike hire system which was running in West London in 2004) OYBike now owned by Veolia Transportation (they tried to sell to a UK Transport group but the UK ones are still years behind others in Europe). Well despite having Veolia as a backer OYBike was not qualified to bid (insufficient financial backing) and 6 bidders started the process (Decaux did not bid because their model requires a mass commitment to give JCD the advertising poster sites in the city) It whittled down to Clear Channel (who had been operating bike hire since 1997 in Rennes) and a merger between 2 bidders Bixi (who were about to launch their first bike hire system in Montreal) and Serco (who had the staff and financial clout – but no proven system operating at the time)
For various reasons, including ‘security’ TfL rejected the neat modular Bixi concept and wanted the installed facilities. They did originally insist that the system was not for rail commuters because of the severe tidal impact and the modular system would actually have made life easier – if not cheaper for Serco.
The original Paris Bike hire run with RATP support (RATP = TfL for Paris – now <irony> running buses in London) has been running for over 2 decades, and used converted single deck buses as hire points. Drive a bus up outside the station filled with bikes, hire out the bikes and drive a fresh full bus up, whilst the other bus heads off to replace the empty bus which has been collecting bikes (at the bottom of Montmartre hill). Cuts out the triple handling exercise of undocking a bike, loading a trailer, and restocking an empty dock, or the reverse process as appropriate.
Of course another solution – which would probably cost TfL/Serco a lot less than all the vans and trailers, is to operate a multi-tariff scheme like Montpelier, and let commuters hire the bikes for a working day at a flat rate, and park the bikes at their workplace. The Dutch rail operator does this – its called OV-Fiets.
Or you deliver a complete door to desk transport package, as South West Trains started doing in 2009 – a few months ahead of the Borisbike launch but with a quieter fanfare. Commuters can ‘lease’ a branded folding bike for about the same price as their London Zones supplement and the 24/7 facility at Guildford has now gone live, as the next stage from the pilot scheme which Brian Souter cleverly worked by using staff available at the Lost property counter to issue the bikes. Expect further schemes to follow, either from train operators or possibly company sites using the system as an internal pool bike facility and the branding for PR or a revenue to offset the costs. Check-out Brompton Dock, or ask someone riding an SWT branded bike.
I might look for the introductions thread sometime – I was advising the original automated hire system – in 1996 – Portsmouth University, and have followed city bike schemes from the early green and yellow free bikes and their gloriously naieve ideas that bikes would be returned for the next user!