Figure 1 – View of POROCLE’s station in Sapporo (photo by M. Matsumoto, June/2010)
What is it ?
Named after “SapPORO CyCLE”, POROCLE is the bike-sharing system of Sapporo City (Hokkaido, Japan), which started in 2009 as short-term ‘social experiences’ under the coordination of Docon Ltd, an engineering consulting company. Later, in 2010, NTT Docomo – one of the leading mobile phone operators in Japan – joined forces with Docon to conduct a larger scale 4-month-long experience which has launched in June 2010 with 6 stations and 50 bicycles and is to be expanded to 15 stations and 100 bicycles. An estimated 2500 users are expected this time.
The goals of POROCLE are threefold: first, to reduce illegal bicycle parking, which is a serious problem in Japan since cycles are so numerous; second, to induce modal shift from automobiles, therefore lowering CO2 emissions; and finally, to revitalize Sapporo’s city center, by making it more attractive.
Also, it must be said that Docon and NTT Docomo see a potential for bike-sharing in Japan as business.
POROCLE’s bike-sharing technology was developed under the supervision of Docon. It is a third-generation bike-sharing system , using bicycles that can be found in the market (Bridgestone Mariposa). Stations are solar/battery powered, and users identify with a contactless IC card. Bicycles are locked through the front wheel in a not so theft-proof way when compared to other systems around the globe. Although, in Japan it seems to be sufficient, as no bicycles have yet been stolen or vandalized from POROCLE.
An evolution of POROCLE’s technology is being prepared, with a specially designed bike and more high-tech stations, to be deployed in the next steps of the project.
Different kinds of bike-sharing
In 2009 two types of ‘social experiences’ on bike-sharing were conducted by Docon. In the first one, that lasted 19 days, all racks were located in a single spot, the Shin-sapporo railway station, and round trips were targeted. Bikes were shared between nearby residents and people who work or study around the station. The formers kept the bikes at home during the night, while the latters kept them at work/school during the day. This was only possible because the area around Shin-Sapporo station has mixed land use.
The second experience, on the other hand, consisted of the more popular bike-sharing type, where one-way trips are allowed, and bikes are not to be kept by users for a long time. 7 stations, with 70 racks and 50 bicycles, were deployed in the city center within 1km from Sapporo station during 12 days. An approximate 250 people used the bicycles.
From the positive outcome of these 2 experiences, Docon has concluded that bike-sharing has enough potential to serve as an transportation alternative in Sapporo. 2010’s experience, then, follows the second experience’s type, but in larger scale as mentioned above. Tariffs follow world bike-sharing trend: a basic fee allows access to the system, and bikes can then be used freely for 30 minutes (table 1)
|Single-time use||¥50 / 30 minutes|
|Daily pass||¥200 / day||30 free minutes per bike rent; ¥100 per additional 30 minutes; ¥2000 maximum fee.|
|Monthly pass||¥500 / month|
Even though POROCLE is seen by Docon and NTT Docomo as having a lot of potential, it is not yet clear how economic feasibility will be assured. The business model that has been widely spread, consisting of funding bike-sharing through outdoor advertisement, is not believed to be prosperous. A different strategy is being considered: providing users with information on nearby shops and restaurants via mobile phone. Revenue could then be drawn from partnership with these local commerces. Docon also believes that feasibility depends on government subsidy for covering the initial implementation costs.
Furthermore, other issues must be addressed before proceeding to a permanent bike-sharing in Sapporo, such as reducing operational costs and defining the collaboration framework with stakeholders like the City Hall, who hasn’t yet participated in POROCLE.
Figure 2 – Station Map of POROCLE in Sapporo (source: http://poro-cle.jp/map/, June/2010)
1) Paul DeMaio. (2009). Bike-sharing: History, Impacts, Models of Provision, and Future. Journal of Public Transportation. 12 (4), 41-56.
2) http://poro-cle.jp/. Accessed on June/2010.