Public bike service opens in Tirana (Albania)

By Jan Christiaens / Updated: 01 Aug 2014
The capital of Albania has followed in the footsteps of Paris, Barcelona and London by launching a public bicycle system as a way of popularising cycling as a means of urban transport.
Like the popular bike-sharing systems in Western Europe, Tirana’s Ecovolis scheme offers an inexpensive city rental service from a host of centrally located stations. Users can pick up a bike and return it to the point of origin or to another station, whichever is most convenient. Users must register for the service, but subscriptions are inexpensive and the per-trip tariff is free for the first 30 minutes.

Unlike the relatively high-tech systems in Paris, Barcelona and others, in which bikes can be taken out with swipe cards from automated docking stations, Ecovolis is entirely people-powered. Each of its stations is staffed by attendants who look after the bikes and check them in and out.

There were several reasons for the lower-tech approach. One was that the high investment cost of a Parisian-style system was prohibitive, according to Jola Foto, in charge of Ecovolis’s marketing and public relations. Another was that swipe cards are not yet common currency in Albania.

The 'people approach' has a couple of advantages as well. One is that attendants can explain and promote the idea of urban cycling — which is still a novel concept in Tirana. The other is that manned stations offer an employment opportunity for socially marginalised people. In fact, work opportunities was one of the central aims of the Ecovolis’s organising group, a social development NGO called PASS.

Eco-Volis launched with four stations, each hosting 10 bicycles. A roll-out of an additional seven stations is envisioned in the project’s initial phase. The system is supported by Tirana City Hall and has received contributions of USD 24,000 from the George Soros-funded Open Society Foundation Albania (OSFA) as well as a donation of 450 bicycles from the US-based Pedal for Progress charity. Organisers are seeking further contributions to sustain the project.

Source: REC
Walking and cycling