ITU organises free bikes for Geneva staff and citizens

Wed, 14/10/15

Following the great success of last year's electric bike loan programme in collaboration with Genèveroule, ITU’s Mobility Club wanted to do something even more impressive in 2015.  

Putting a container filled with bikes available for UN agency staff, in the middle of the Place des Nations, certainly fitted the bill.

Genèveroule is a publicly-funded association promoting sustainable modes of transport with the aim of encouraging solidarity based on the idea of a social economy. With the support of Genèveroule, and several other international organizations nearby, the Mobility Club managed to make 20 electric bikes and 20 standard bikes available, free of charge for use by UN agency staff, from April to October 2015. 

A reservation system was created, allowing UN agency staff to book a bike for their lunch break, to commute to/from work in the evening, or even to borrow a bike for the weekend. So far nearly 3,000 bookings had been made for the eBikes, including almost 900 by ITU staff. In the first five months, the bikes were ridden 43,000km – further than cycling around the world!

ITU Mobility contacted various international organizations  around the Place des Nations to see if they would like to take part in the project. UNOG, UNHCR, WIPO and Cigna (ITU health insurance) all agreed to participate. There were many benefits for agencies in terms of staff engagement and pubic perception. The high-profile green initiative reinforced the UN agencies commitment to environmental sustainability and being a part of the Geneva community, while giving staff the benefits of free bikes and the associated health benefits of using them.  Environmental impacts included a reduction in traffic around the Place des Nations and reduced pollution.

The UN organizations involved provided half of the funding for the benefit of UN staff, with ITU’s share being donated by Cigna. The Ville de Genève provided the other half of the funding to promote green mobility around the Place des Nations. This funding provided free use of the bikes both to locals and tourists.

After various meetings with representatives from the participating organizations, Cigna, Genèveroule and the Ville de Genève, the bike container was installed on the Place des Nations in April 2015.

An inauguration ceremony took place on 29 May - happily a sunny day for a happy occasion - in the presence of (from left to right) Nicolas Walder, President, Genèveroule;  Sergio Arena, Director, Staff Health & Welfare Service, UNHCR;  Michael Møller, Director General, UN Office Geneva; Rémy Pagani, Executive Advisor, Ville de Genève; Ramanthan Ambi Sundaram, Assistant Director, Responsible for the Administration and Management Sector, WIPO;  Houlin Zhao, Secretary-General, ITU.

Users commenting on the scheme said;

“First time I met the beautiful blue E-Bike was in Geneva, in April 2015 and I fell in love with it! I am doing my internship here and E-bike has been my constant companion every day, throughout 6 months of my life here. I have so many life moments that I shared with it during these months: we were together day and night, on rainy and sunny days, in sadness and happiness, on lovely weekends and on stressful and sad times! We have explored the whole city together and it has made my stay here and commuting to work so much fun and practical. The Genèveroule folks at Place des Nations have been extremely helpful and friendly and I thank them for everything. Also many thanks to all of those everyone who made this pleasing and delightful service available. This wonderful E-bike experience will always stay in my memory." - Marita

“ITU Mobility is great and many of my friends have been admiring the generosity of this initiative. A few days back, some guests from Brazil also rented a bike and it turns out anyone can borrow a bike for 4 hours for free; which made them quite happy about the city of Geneva! We also went on an excursion to nearby places on E-bikes, and it really helps in improving working relationships among team members. Thanks for the excellent effort. At the same time, it's a bit scary to ride the E-bike because I feel that an invisible force is pedalling for me, which is something I am not quite used to!" - Rahul Jha

The objectives for 2016 is to enlarge the scheme by involving more organizations and creating supplementary events to promote alternative modes of transport.

Categories: Travel