The authorities of Ho Chi Minh City have granted approval to a pilot of a public bicycle scheme, due to see the light of day in August. Bicycles will be available for rent at 43 locations throughout District 1, for a trial period of 12 months.

Called “Mobike”, the project is part of Saigon’s master plan to limit the use of private vehicles and ease traffic congestion in the city centre. The municipal Department of Transport has been tasked with coordinating the project, evaluating its results and recommending best moves and strategies going forward.

The project investor, Tri Nam Company, will be permitted to set up parking stands on pavements. A fleet of 388 bicycles will be distributed across the area, each vehicle fitted with an identification card, a smart lock and a GPS device.

Public bicycles in Milan, Italy, in a photo by Claudio Arnese.

Renters will need to install the Mobike app on their smartphone and locate the nearest bike station. As soon as they have paid the charge, they will be able to use the app to scan a code and unlock their vehicle. To prevent vandalism and theft, all users will be required to register with their personal information.

The fare system is pending approval by the authorities but according to the investor, rent rates will depend on bicycle usage time where a 30-minute ride will cost VND5,000, a 60-minute trip will cost VND10,000 and so on. To help stimulate interest, in the initial stages of the project renters will be allowed to use the scheme free of charge for the first 15 minutes of every ride.

Bike share systems are widely seen as a good way to reduce traffic congestion, decrease air pollution and keep urban populations healthier and less stressed. The earliest better-known scheme ended in failure in the Netherlands in 1965 when bicycles were left unlocked for everyone to use freely and were mostly stolen or landed in Amsterdam’s canals within a month, but bicycle-sharing methods have greatly improved since then. Public bicycles are now available for rent in over 1,000 cities around the world.