THE public bicycle service in Palma which is due to come into operation next year will have an introductory six-month period when it is completely free to users, the City council confirmed yesterday.
The system, christened bicipalma by popular vote, is part of Palma Council's attempt to persuade people to leave their cars at home and get around the city by public transport. The free six-month trial aims to allow people to give the public bicyles a try before the imposition of charges.
Maria Luisa Gracia of the Council's Transport department, refused to be drawn yesterday on an exact date for the 336 cyles of the bicipalma project to come into service, but she said it was likely to be in the first quarter of 2011.
Already, 7 of the 28 cycle ranks have been completed with Mayor Aina Calvo having opened one of the first in Calle Blanquerna back in October this year. Amongst those which are already ready and waiting in key positions in the city are the blue-painted cycle stations in Calle Sa Gerreria and Jaime III.
Being in possession of Palma's citizen's card will provide access to the new public bicycles which have three speeds and which are fitted with an anti-theft device. A luminous pilot light confirms the availability of the bikes to potential clients. Those glowing green are the bikes which are immediately available, explained Gracia.
Once the cyclist has finished his or her route, the bike can then be left at the nearest cycle rank where a nodule at the front of the handlebars can be locked into a corresponding space on the blue parking rail. If the bike is stationed correctly, the green light will start to glow again, indicating all is in order and that the cycle is free for another user.
The public cycle system, although yet to complete its trials has already cost the City Council 800'000 euros. Inter-linked cycle routes through the city will enable users to connect with 15 separate suburbs of the city.
The Council wants to wait to see what the response to the pilot scheme is, and was anxious in the initial planning stages not to flood the streets with cycles because users may have had to face problems with finding a free parking space.
City authorities made the assumption that cyclists will want a quick turnaround time and if they had to waste effort looking for somewhere to leave the bike, it may dissuade erstwhile enthusiasts from continuing with the public cycle system.
Many of the cycle ranks are to be placed alongside municipal bus stops used by the EMT company. This is a deliberate strategy on the part of the City Council to encourage people who have either got off buses - or are about to get onto them - to continue their journeys using public transport. Palma citizens who have paid for a bus ride will be entitled to a free half hour use of the public cycles.
The Council is keen to see how efficient bicipalma will prove to be.
Although expectations are that a correct and honest use of the cycles will be widespread, security cameras will nevertheless be set up to monitor activity at the cycle stations and to give an immediate overview of availability of transport at the individual ranks.