There will be no charge to use the bikes.

Jojo Puthuparampil is a business news writer for Inc. Arabia.

‘Lebanon Bike Sharing System – Bike 4 All,’ an initiative to encourage commuters to shift from fossil-fuel driven motor vehicles to environment-friendly bicycles, was launched in Beirut this week.

The initiative, launched by Bike 4 All, Beirut by Bike and the Municipality of Beirut, was launched with the first bike station on Weygand Street, one of the city’s downtown thoroughfares.

The station is a prototype, with five bicycles to start. “The launch was with the first five bicycles, and within two to three months we will have 25 stations set up,” adviser to Beirut Governor Issam Kaskas said.

The municipality is providing the space for the stations, but won’t be funding the project or be responsible for stolen or damaged bicycles.

“The project was initially aimed at helping university students to get to and from classes without having to drive their cars and deal with the hassle of parking,” Kaskas said.

Universities in Beirut will each get one station of 12 bicycles, with the potential to add another if scheme proves popular.

“Some schools have an upper and lower gate; so depending on how the project goes, we can add a second station,” Kaskas said.

For free

There will be no charge to use the bikes in the first year as the entities involved agreed they would set a price after the project had been piloted.

There is also no intention of making the service prohibitively expensive.

“It will be geared toward students and very student-friendly regarding pricing,” Kaskas said.

When a payment system for the service is established, users will be able to pay via a specialized prepaid card, student identity card, or bank cards. Cash will not be an option because it will create the potential for theft, according to Kaskas.

In Beirut, which is known for chaotic traffic, safety for cyclists is a concern.

To address this, each bicycle will have GPS, and there will be designated lanes for riders.

A route from Central Beirut along the seaside road to Bliss and Hamra will be in place within the next one to two months. The route will be able to accommodate a proposed 250 bikes, according to Kaskas.

“(A) lane will be made for bikers but we are studying whether it will be on the left or right-hand side (of the road),” he said.

The project is expected to expand so commuters living outside Beirut can get into the city using the system.

“A shuttle will take commuters from the parking lots to the bicycle stations,” Kaskas said.

A parking lot will be established at the north and south entrances to Beirut, he said.

“This is a healthy, environmentally friendly, economical and touristic project … if it succeeds, it can be used across the entire nation,” Kaskas said.

The project is also being studied for implementation in Jbeil, Sidon, and Tripoli.

Denmark, Austria, and Belgium in Europe; Canada and the US in North America, Argentina, Brazil and Chile in South America and China in Asia are among the countries that are known to have organized bicycle sharing systems.