The usage rate of Ttareungi, the public bicycle of Seoul, between February and March of this year increased by 66.8% compared to the same period of time last year. While the number of bus and subway passengers during commuting hours decreased by over 20%, the number of Ttareungi users increased by 20.46% during the hours when commuters go to work and by 93.33% during the hours when they go home.
After the South Korean government raised the COVID-19 alert level to the highest of Red, with the practices of working from home and a flexible working system, the rate of use of other public transportation (subway, buses) dropped by 23.02% during the hours when commuters go to work and by 26.42% during the hours when they go home, compared to previous ordinary days.
The accumulative amount of Ttareungi use more than doubled in 2019 to 35 million from 16 million in 2018. As of the end of March 2020, the number reached about 40 million, which shows continual growth each year.
According to the analysis by the Seoul Metropolitan Government, many citizens are still using Ttareungi as it has become a representative mode of public transportation that can be used even amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
The city understands that Ttareungi appeals to the needs of citizens who are avoiding enclosed environments due to the risk of COVID-19 infection as the public bicycle can be used by individual users while practicing social distancing outdoors.
For citizens to use Ttareungi worry-free, Seoul is operating a thorough and diligent system to disinfect the 25,000 Ttareungi bicycles and 1,540 rental stations throughout the city. Before and after delivery and repair as well as several times a day every day, the public bicycles are being disinfected and sterilized. The system focuses particularly the front-wheel docks and handles, which are the parts about which users can feel anxiety. All rental stations are equipped with hand sanitizers.
Additionally, Seoul released the “QR-Type Ttareungi” on March 1 to allow users to borrow and return the public bicycle through QR code scanning, taking away the need to touch the equipment. The new version has been well received by citizens as they can use the bicycle without worrying about contact-transmitted virus infections.
In line with the demand of citizens who prefer safe means of transportation due to anxiety surrounding the spread of COVID-19, Seoul will be introducing 5,000 QR-type Ttareungi bicycles in the first half of the year and 15,000 by the end of the year. The existing LCD-type Ttareungi bicycles of which life expectancy is expired will also be replaced with QR-type ones.
With the cold weather abating and outdoor activities increasing, more citizens are using Ttareungi bicycles to avoid COVID-19 and accordingly, Seoul has plans to monitor and take thorough control of the shared bicycles so as to prevent possible infections.