Medina Bikes Launched in Morocco

Africa’s first bike-sharing system is introduced in Marrakech

November 23rd, 2016
Danai Tsitomenea, CD News
Medina Bikes.jpg

It is claimed that you can identify a true Marrakech local if he owns a bicycle, since the streets of the city are full of cyclists. The French company, Smoove, took the initiative to revive Marrakech’s biking culture, which has been overtaken by scooters and cars during recent decades causing congestion on the city’s roads. The company hopes to boost sustainable transport by launching a bike-share scheme in the city.

This will be the first fully functioning bike- share system in Africa, and Marrakech is the first African city to introduce it. Its launch coincided with the start of the COP22 climate conference in the city. Medina Bike, created in partnership with local organisation Estates Vision, will have a fleet consisting of around 300 bikes and 10 stations, and will be installed in the city’s most emblematic locations.

Medina Bike is part of the Moroccan government’s desire for practical initiatives on sustainable development. Hakima El Haité, COP22 host and delegate minister of the environment for the Moroccan government, stated: “We have made sustainability a part of our constitution. So now we are implementing. The bike share is part of the wider scheme to implement green transport in Moroccan cities.”

Smoove, which has also launched bike shares in many big cities around the world, expanded to Marrakech after winning an offer from the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation to start the project.  Laurent Mercat, Smoove’s CEO and founder of the company, commented that this biking-share system is providing a modern way of using bicycles again.

Smoove is working to maintain the scheme during its five-year contract and hopes the project will win the support of locals due to Marrakech’s history of cycling. Of course, the city’s cycling infrastructure needs some improvement in order for the new bike- share system to survive this altered environment, such as the provision of clearly marked cycle lanes on its frequently congested roads.

Another challenge is the access to the bicycles for lower-income locals. For that reason Smoove is working to provide different payment options, such as cash, credit cards and smartphone apps typically used for bike- share schemes. The price tag for the Medina Bike is 500 dirhams (£109) annually, 150 for a week, and 50 for a day. Smoove finds the price a helpful deterrent against potential vandalism and theft and the interest shown by passers-by indicates that the cost is not too severe a deterrent.

Globally bike-share schemes have a varying record including theft problems, financial insecurity, and failed uptake. And in the African context the challenges will be unique. So far, other African countries have already expressed interest in Smoove. If the five-year trial works in Marrakech, it could be the stepping-stone for cycling schemes across the continent.


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