Bike Sharing: the Urban Solution to the Last Mile Problem
The Last Mile Problem
Everyone who has commuted within Metro Manila knows how difficult it can be – the long, disorganized lines, feeling like packed sardines during rush hour, the scourging heat, and still never managing to make it to your destination on time. The transport system, while improving year-by-year to make it a more practical and attractive option for public use, still falls short in creating a closed system that makes transitioning from one mode of transportation to another seamless while trying to contribute less to air pollution. To further aggravate this, commuters in Metro Manila, like many others in highly urbanized cities around the world, frequently experience the dilemma of the last mile. This usually refers to the last part of the commute – the last 10 minutes from the train station to the office, the last 2 kilometer stretch to the mall, or the last 2 blocks walking home. This may not seem like much, but in the middle of summer or during the height of a typhoon, that last mile can seem like the longest, most difficult part of one’s entire commute. While there have been solutions in the past, none of them have the same potential and uniqueness as bike sharing.
Bicycle sharing, more commonly known as bike sharing, is a service where a number of bicycles are provided in select locations as a means of public transport for a short period of time (Boor, 2019; Pucher & Buehler, 2008). Bike sharing began as a movement in the 1970s to encourage cycling in cities, but has now evolved to promote slower forms of transport in urban centers and as a potential solution to the last mile problem. It is already used in other highly urbanized cities, particularly in Europe. Cities in the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany have used bike sharing for years, and many citizens consider biking to be part of their commute culture (Pucher & Buehler, 2008).
In the Philippines, the latest endeavor to incorporate bike sharing into the Metro Manila commute is by a start-up called Moovr PH. The features of their bike sharing system are similar to other 4th generation bikes. The bikes themselves are dockless and free-floating, equipped with GPS for easy tracking, easy access, and to prevent theft and vandalism. To use the bike requires a smartphone and the app, which is used to scan the QR code on the bikes to unlock them. Moovr charges PHP 15.00 per 15 minutes of use, which is paid through the app. These bike sharing stations are strategically located within the BGC central area, and bikes can be mounted and parked in any of these locations. Bikes can be used for short-distance travel from one point of public transportation to the next, and is especially useful for those crucial situations wherein the next bus terminal or train station is too far to walk, but not far enough to need to use another form of mass transport. Bike sharing offers a more sustainable, zero-emission form of transportation while allowing for a more efficient use of public space (Midgley, 2011).
Not a Perfect System
While bike sharing is a good solution to the last mile problem, it is not a silver bullet. It is just one of the many ways in which a commuter can get to and from places in a faster, more efficient way. It has gone through 4 generations of modifications over the years, trying to minimize issues of vandalism, theft, cost to set-up, and integration into the urban transport system of the city (De Maio, 2009). To incorporate bike sharing into one’s daily commute, one would need to have a smartphone, be in a serviced area for bike sharing, and be physically able to ride a bike. While the current generation of bike sharing is much more refined than its predecessors, much work still needs to be done to make it a viable option for the regular commuter.
The bike sharing system is not perfect. Despite this, it is a good potential solution to the last mile problem. Bike sharing offers more pros than cons and, if available to the regular citizen, could be the key in making one’s daily commute a little easier.
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