Changwon, the Green City of Bicycles

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Chinese Characters 그린시티, 自轉車特別市 昌原
Field Politics, Economy and Society) / Politics and Administration
Type Conceptual Term / Conceptual Term (Individual Plan)
Area Changwon, Gyeongsangnam-do
Period Contemporary Era / Contemporary Era
Writer Kang Jeongun
[Definition]
NUBIJA is the name of Changwon’s public bicycle rental program, which is designed to elevate the city’s status as one of the greatest environmental cities in Korea.

[Overview]
NUBIJA is a public bicycle rental program that plays a pivotal role in Changwon’s environmental capital strategy. This green urban program has attracted national and international attention.

[Changwon’s Environmental Capital Strategy and Green Transportation]
The “Declaration of Environmental Capital Changwon” was announced in November 2006 by the municipal government of Changwon, local civic and environmental organizations, and Changwon City Council. The municipal government has established four objectives, namely, a city of water and wind, an ecological city of abundant wildlife, a city of recycled energy and resources, and an advanced environmental city for the people, along with eight strategic guidelines. Currently, a total of seventy projects are under way, all of which will serve as a pedestal in elevating Changwon’s status as an environmental capital. The city’s goal is to become a globally recognized environmental city by 2020. Changwon’s idea of an environmental capital is a city that carefully manages its natural resources and an ecology metropolis where man and nature live in perfect harmony.

To that end, Changwon has come up with a plan to establish a low-carbon-emission green transportation system that is both widely accessible and resident-friendly. This is expected to lay the groundwork for an environmental city and offer integrated social support, subsequently giving Changwon a competitive edge. A public bicycle rental program named NUBIJA was born to realize such goals.

[Background to NUBIJA]
The NUBIJA program, whose name is a compound word of nubida[meaning “to travel around” in Korean] and jajeongeo[meaning “bicycle”], was devised with a view to escaping the conventional car-dependant urban planning paradigm and to promoting citizens’ health, thus setting an excellent example to other cities in Korea and around the world that are looking to implement similar programs.

The program is expected to solve the kind of chronic issues, such as constant traffic jams and parking difficulties, that are prevalent in any major city. Bicycles are an environmentally-friendly mode of transportation that can help reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality. For this reason the city will promote the use of bicycles as an alternative to its citizens to overcome the energy crisis.

Under this program, the municipal government of Changwon hopes to cut the social and economic costs of traffic jams and parking issues while at the same time avoiding costly infrastructure construction projects such as road expansion works. The program is expected to improve air quality as the city’s residents will be encouraged to take public transport and/or take to cycling. Changwon will have an advanced urban transportation system that tackles climate change issues by saving energy.

[Objectives and Promotional Strategies of NUBIJA]
NUBIJA was established under three major objectives – building the necessary infrastructure, setting up an institutional strategy, and instigating a movement among the citizens. The strategic basis for establishing the infrastructure consisted in reestablishing bicycle lanes by type, carrying out regular maintenance of bicycle-related facilities, establishing continuity among traffic systems, constructing bicycle-only roads, and guaranteeing the safety and convenience of the cycling network. The base strategy for establishing the necessary institutional measures comprises the following initiatives: implementation of traffic policies favorable to cyclists, formulation of a municipal ordinance, provision of incentives for citizens who cycle, promotion of cycling safety through educational programs, promotion of the use of public bicycles, prevention of theft, and the recycling of abandoned bicycles. Lastly, the municipal government’s strategies for promoting cycling among its residents consist in promoting voluntary participation among the public, transforming the public’s perception of cycling, offering support for cyclist communities, celebrating ‘Cycling Day,’ a cycling day for city employees, and promoting cycling through the media.

[Program Details]
Bicycles

NUBIJA bicycles are cruise bicycles that can be used by everyone, including women, senior citizens, and infirm persons. The seven-speed bikes are good for climbing hills, and are also equipped with a display that measures distance traveled[km], travel time, and average speed.

2. Terminals

Terminals are available in the central city areas that are near vital facilities. The kiosk at the terminal offers cycling related services and information on nearby terminals.

3. Bicycle Stands

Each terminal comprises bike stands where users can park their rented bicycles. The stands are equipped with locks to prevent theft. They are also equipped with a membership card reader system and a bicycle identification system for quick and easy rental and return.

4. Management of NUBIJA

The management team of the NUBIJA program include professional bicycle mechanics, terminal staff, and service management staff.

5. Mobile Services

NUBIJA offers smart phone applications for android phones and iPhones, thus allowing users to borrow bicycles by utilizing the QR code. The application offers access to Google Maps to help users locate nearby bicycle terminals; allows users to report breakdowns, and record a variety of data including their travel distance, travel route, average speed, generated electricity, amount of petrol saved, reduction of carbon emissions, and workout time; enables data management; enables users to conduct a terminal search based on augmented reality, as well as instant reporting to the NUBIJA customer service center. The application will also offer basic information on the rental system, registered user information management, and the one-day pass.

6. Bicycle Rental Insurance

In June 2013, the municipal government of Changwon signed an insurance contract with LIG Insurance to cover accidents that may befall the renter while using a rented bicycle. The policyholder is Changwon City Hall; the insurant is any resident who is registered under Changwon or anyone who uses Changwon’s public bicycle rental system. The inheritor and heritor will be the beneficiaries. All Changwon citizens will be covered for death, stress disorders, cycling related injuries, bicycle accident fines, the cost of hiring a lawyer in the event of a bicycle accident, and expenses for processing cycling-related traffic accidents.

[Current Status]
NUBIJA had 241 terminals, 5,397 bike stands, 4,704 bicycles, 20 maintenance vehicles, and a total budget of KRW 4.9 billion as of the end of 2012. The number of registered members reached 68,823, consisting of 27,653 residents of Seongsan-gu[40%], 22,274 residents of Uichang-gu[33%], 4,216 residents of Masanhappo-gu[6%], 5,341 residents of Masanhoewon-gu[8%], and 5,136 residents of Jinhae-gu[7%], with the remaining 6% or 4,203 people coming from other districts. A total of 366 foreigners were registered in 2011, rising to 463 in 2012.

The total cumulative number of users reached 4,631,230 in 2011, recording an average of 2,688 users a day. In 2012 the number increased to 5,801,019, for an average of 15,850 users a day.

[Achievements]
In September 2008 NUBIJA opened the nation’s first cycling culture center offering cycling education, mechanics and handling, promotions, and exhibitions. Changwon was also the first municipal government to subscribe to a citizens’ cycling insurance scheme. Numerous organizations paid the center a visit to benchmark this innovative municipal government scheme. From 2011 to 2012, some 3,452 officials from 211 organizations visited Changwon to learn more about NUBIJA.

Currently, the municipal government of Changwon operates the largest public bicycle rental system in all of Korea. The cycling-only road network comprises 18 routes spanning 100.8km, the longest stretch in any municipality in the nation. The city is expanding its network through its “road diet” scheme. The combined length of the bicycle lanes has been greatly extended from 214km in 2007 to 472km in 2011. The city has earned widespread recognition for such achievements. Changwon was selected as a model institution for the 2009 Cycling Promotion Project. In 2011, the city was selected as one of Korea’s ten most cycling-friendly cities. NUBIJA also earned worldwide attention when it was featured on an NHK-produced program in Japan. In October 2011, Changwon was elected as the chair city for the EcoMobility Alliance.

[Effects of the NUBIJA Program]
NUBIJA has had the fundamental effect of establishing an environmentally-friendly transportation system, while its peripheral effects include that of stimulating the local economy by cooperating with businesses interested in marketing their goods to NUBIJA members. The project is estimated to create over 500 cycling-related jobs and boost the related industries. NUBIJA has invigorated the local communities and promoted a culture of healthy daily exercise. Cycling has become a new way of getting around the city during after hours, and riding a bicycle has emerged as a hip new trend among the city’s residents, influencing local lifestyles.

[Ways to Improve the NUBIJA Program]
The budget for the NUBIJA program is growing in step with the growing number of members. In July 2010, the municipal government of Changwon formed an integrated government body which saw steep growth in its operational expenses. Since then, NUBIJA’s giant budget has become burdensome; and no new terminals were built in 2013 due to the total expenditure of the budget).

The municipal government is currently reviewing the privatization of NUBIJA by outsourcing the program’s management to a social enterprise as of June 2013. The fees may be increased to alleviate NUBIJA’s deficit. To keep fees low, the municipal government can apply for a government subsidy by hiring a social enterprise to run the operation. Note that social enterprises are eligible for government subsidies in the labor costs category. The municipal government will still be in charge of the infrastructure, including the purchase of bicycles and the construction of terminals. Social enterprises will be given an incentive in order to generate interest. Other ideas include buying up NUBIJA with corporate contributions and allowing them to advertise indirectly. Amending the municipal ordinance to increase user fees, cutting prime costs by purchasing parts directly and adopting in-house assembly and production, building and expanding NUBIJA terminals, cutting design costs by standardizing designs, and developing the tentative NUBIJA 2 project exclusively for commuters are just a few of the many proposals that have been tabled.

The Changwon City Council is reviewing ways of shifting the emphasis from public bicycles to private bicycles, and determining the direction for promoting NUBIJA as the next-generation environmentally-friendly mode of transportation. The council is also reviewing ways of delegating the cycling road-building project to district offices with the remit of establishing a network that is customized to the region.

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