CitiesThe success of electric bike sharing in low-population areas: Vilvolt
May 4, 2022

The success of electric bike sharing in low-population areas: Vilvolt

By Florence Orsini
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Greater Epinal is a prime example of an area that has opted for an ambitious cycling policy to make cycling a long-term form of sustainable public transport - a vehicle for a modal shift - even in sparsely populated areas.

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Overview

150 bikes + 100 from may 2022

31 stations + 5 from may 2022

50,000 residents and 6 municipalities served

The app: Vilvolt

 

 

Where it all started

Over the last ten years, the Greater Epinal Area has invested heavily in cycling infrastructures and a wide variety of bike services for its population.

 In 2017, the public cycling policy was set in motion with the introduction of a purchase support scheme for all residents wanting to buy an electric bike. Today, thanks to this initiative, 4,000 bicycles have been subsidised.

This was followed by the Vilvolt project, winner of the “Vélos & Territoires” call for projects in spring 2019, which included the implementation of long-term rentals for electric bikes. This service led the city to further reduce the price barrier for users. Users were now able to rent an electric bike for personal use on a 3-month basis.

The real benefit was getting the population back in the saddle, with the added bonus of new travel habits, leading to satisfied residents making a purchase.

Again, the success is unmistakable, with 820 rentals since the launch, and 84 bikes available today (and a waiting list that grows by the day).

The next logical move was to go a step further in making bikes accessible by introducing an electric bike sharing system.

5 steps to implement your bike sharing system

Vilvolt bike sharing: augmented bike sharing

This network's strength lies in its expanded scope and desire to provide a credible alternative to driving across all areas.
 

vls-epinal-station.jpgVivolt bike sharing at Epinal's train station

A unique coverage

 Of course, this system is available across Epinal's centre and outskirts. However, the strength of this bike network lies in the other areas it serves.

 Vilvolt stations can now be found in 6 other municipalities:

  • Chantraine3,153 residents - 2 km from Epinal
  • Golbey8,597 residents - 3.5 km from Epinal
  • Chaumousey889 residents - 10 km from Epinal
  • Thaon-les-Vosges9,042 residents - 10 km from Epinal
  • Charmes: 4,695 residents - 27 km from Epinal
  • La Vôge-les-Bains1,609 residents - 29 km from Epinal

 In total, 37,000 residents can access the service (= living 400 meters or less from a station).

 

The results speak for themselves

 Results over 6 months of operation:

  • 85,000 km travelled
  • 9 % of the population served has used the service
  • 29,000 journeys made
  • 42 tonnes of CO2 avoided
  • Rating of 4.8/5 from users of the mobile app

And the service is only going to get more and more successful. Thomas Peignard, Mobility Director of the Greater Epinal Area, has demonstrated its desire to carry out its cycling policy over the long term at the Autonomy 2022 conference: 

The data that we collect through Fifteen is compared with our vision and what is happening in reality. And what we see is that cyclists want to travel everywhere and cover long distances, and so our infrastructure work must also go the distance.

In May 2022, the service is scheduled to be expanded to add 100 bikes to the existing fleet of 150. This substantial expansion is proof of the trust that the local authority and users have in the service.

Internalised operations for a greater impact

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The Greater Epinal Area has chosen to manage the electric bike sharing service itself. This comes with three main benefits:

  1. The city retains control of the service and is more responsive, particularly when it comes to expanding the service in the future or moving stations.
  2.  2.5 full time equivalent skilled jobs have been created for the future focusing on service management and maintenance to customer service.
  3.  Gaining these skills is invaluable when it comes to building a long term bike network.

Local authority management may not be the best solution for all low-population areas. The management must be chosen at the start of the project based on the size of the fleet to be managed and the technical skills base of the teams involved.

However, the key takeaway from the Vilvolt project is the political will behind it and focus on a modal shift, giving everyone access to active mobility transport options.
 

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