Home » In Tartu, bike sharing excites and intimidates
The bike sharing system of Tartu got off to an extremely successful launch with user numbers soaring in the first months of its operation to more than ten times than the initial predictions. Yet, the elderly constitute only about 1% of the user group – why?
No lack of interest
From February to August 2019, the city government of Tartu introduced the new bike sharing system at various public events, including the Tartu City Health Days on May 22. One of the results was that aside from the younger target group, it was the silver age citizens who were most interested in the solution. Additionally, the City Transport department of the city government has received hundreds of calls, letters and comments about the new bike sharing system from the elderly with concerns and questions ranging from simple to more complicated.
Perceived vs real barriers
One of the most cited concerns for using the bike sharing system is a lack of technological know-how: elderly users are intimidated by the online registration system as not many of them use computers or smart phones. As the system requires the user to connect their bus period ticket to their bike sharing account – for the elderly, this means free use of bikes as public transport is also free for everyone over 65 –, this seems intimidating. While this problem may be easily overcome by simply asking a friend or family member for help with registration, the other set of barriers is much more difficult to tackle. Namely, the elderly often cited the fear of “looking dumb” – whether while registering or borrowing or docking the bike, the elderly were most scared of not knowing what to do or doing something wrong and as a result, making a fool of themselves, especially in public places.
Safety is a concern
Another concern that was often cited was safety. While virtually everyone has ridden a bike in their life before, the elderly people were concerned with not being up to date with traffic regulations and thus, causing potentially dangerous situations on the road where they might hurt themselves or someone else. While Tartu has an ever-expanding network of safe, well-maintained and separate bike lanes, the need for road safety training is still acute among the silver age target group in order to increase their confidence in cycling.
Need for a comprehensive approach
As evident, there is no single solution that would help realize the elderly’s interest in cycling into real-life cycling: an integrated, comprehensive approach is needed. To this end, Tartu City Transport in cooperation with a number of other local partners (The Institute of Baltic Studies, the day centers for the elderly, various service providers, etc.) plans to launch a large-scale engagement program for the elderly that would address all the above-mentioned concerns, and encourage and promote cycling especially among the silver age target group.
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