The tiny, remote fishing village of Skrova, Norway, on an island north of the Arctic Circle, is home to fewer than 200 people. It also now has the smallest bike-sharing system in the world, with 12 bicycles. (Citi Bike in New York City, by contrast, has 13,000 bicycles and plans to expand to 40,000; a system in Hangzhou, China, has 84,000 bikes.)
The island draws tourists because of its clear water and white sandy beaches, and the village promotes biking as a way to keep throngs of visitors out of cars. “Since the island is kind of compact, they tried to create an environment where people can walk or hike or take a bicycle instead of driving,” says Liisa Andersson, chief operating officer of Urban Sharing, the company that added the new bike-sharing system. “Otherwise, during tourist season, it would be packed with cars.” Despite the difference in size, she says that there are similarities to Oslo, where the city has pushed to make its downtown car-free. “It’s kind of the same thing that we’re looking into in larger cities—you need to regulate cars because people need more space.”
The company launched the new system after a local arts organization pitched the idea of using the ad space on bicycles to display art; Urban Sharing was interested in testing its technology in a remote, rural location. (A bike-sharing startup called Koloni also focuses on less populated areas—like Pocahontas, Iowa, where 25 bike-share bikes give 1,700 people an alternative to driving.) Rather than using traditional docks for parking bikes or a fully dockless system, the company uses hybrid locks that let users park bikes in a simple dock or in an area marked virtually with a geofence, so bikes aren’t left in people’s way. Because it requires little infrastructure, the system could be cheaply deployed anywhere and make bike sharing more common in small towns, instead of just a feature of large cities.