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Friday, Oct. 2, 2009

Bike-share project kicks off


Staff writer

Japan's first community bicycle program kicked off on an experimental basis in Tokyo's Marunouchi business district Thursday with 50 bikes at five locations.

News photo
Pedal power: An elementary school girl tries out one of 50 public bikes that debuted in Tokyo's Marunouchi district on Thursday. SATOKO KAWASAKI PHOTO

The ¥30 million project, which will run through Nov. 30, is funded by the Environment Ministry and operated by JTB Corp. It is part of government efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions by steering people away from cars, said officials attending the kick-off with elementary school students and former Formula One racer Ukyo Katayama.

The public bikes will be available for use by anyone who has registered their credit card information and paid the initial registration fee of ¥1,000.

Use of the bikes is free for the first 30 minutes and ¥100 every 10 minutes thereafter. After three hours, the fee climbs to ¥100 per five minutes. All fees are charged to the credit card.

The bikes can be rented for up to 24 hours and dropped off at any of the five parking lots — called "eco-ports" — set up in the district.

The scale of the project is much smaller than similar projects in Europe and North America. In France's Velib project, for example, more than 20,000 bikes are being shared by Parisians.



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