Utrecht is continuing with its plans to introduce a bicycle sharing system. Although residents say they are unlikely to use public bicycles very often, commuters and tourists are expected to support the system. However, the main advantage of such a system is the opportunity it affords to promote Utrecht as a bicycle city. OV-fiets is one of the candidates.
Utrecht has explored the advantages and disadvantages of the various systems in European cities. These include systems by advertisers JC Decaux (Paris) and Clear Channel (Barcelona). The municipalities do not usually pay anything, although the operator is compensated with extra advertising rights, according to the research report. These advertising rights also represent a value which can be exploited even apart from the bicycles. In Barcelona, for example, a system with 1,500 bicycles involves € 2.2 million a year. JC Decaux claims that the costs for a system with 1,500 bicycles amount to around €4.5 million. The research report also addresses the possibilities of using OV-fiets as a bicycle sharing system according to the international concept. Expansion of the OV-fiets will be favoured by many people in view of the existing customer group and the embedding of the system in the city, the report concludes. Low threshold rental stations will have to be created (preferably in public areas); it must be possible to return the bicycles to a different place than where they were rented; occasional use must be an option and it must also be possible to rent a bicycle for a short period for a lower charge. Utrecht municipal council does not want to implement a system with a dense network of parking facilities all over the city. It prefers a system with around 30 locations which meet the needs of commuters and visitors to the city. Whether this will be OV-fiets depends on a market consultation which the municipality hopes will help develop further proposals for such a system. The market consultation will take the form of a European pre-publication.