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What are some bike sharing services out there? I know that there have been some in Europe. Here's wikipedia's entry.

This is one that I heard of recently in NYC. http://www.transalt.org/campaigns/bike/bikeshare?

I think that as cities make themselves more green, these will become part of the norm like rental cars or Zipcar.

Do you know of any new ones? Hear of anything starting in your city? Anyone out there that is a member of bike sharing services? What worked and didn't work? I'm really curious about what can make them successful.

My hope is that this post will generate honest and useful feedback so that companies offering these services or new companies can utilize the info here to improve on current offerings.

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Vote to close, this is too specific to your geographic area (not everyone has bike sharing programs, and they differ from location to location) –  Dustin Aug 26 '10 at 20:21
    
It could be useful to hear about experience with such a service, but even this would be specific to a location –  Andrew Lowe Aug 27 '10 at 9:34
    
Unless you can think of a way to rephrase this question so it's more useful to more people, I vote to close as well. –  Neil Fein Aug 27 '10 at 15:38
    
There are various types of these services around the world in metropolitan areas. It's more of a meta question where bikes help with transportation around metropolises, helps the city to be environmentally friends, helps its citizens be more healthy...I'll try to rephrase the question...maybe turn it into a wiki. –  milesmeow Aug 27 '10 at 16:49
    
@milesmeow - I'm not sure how this fits into the SE Q&A structure, but the sentence "What worked and didn't work?" is a step in the right direction, and would get it away from being specific to a single location. A question about bike-sharing programs is quite timely. Perhaps restructure this so that the question is a request for people to add what they did and did not like about bike sharing programs? Something along those lines would be a real help for people constructing these programs. I'd hope that, with the public beta only a few days away, you might get enough people to answer this. –  Neil Fein Aug 30 '10 at 4:35
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20 Answers 20

Barcelona

Barcelona has had a bike sharing program for about 3 years now, Bicing. Overall it's been a success with a huge amount of people signing up and using them every day.

Things that didn't work:

  • Bike stations weren't properly designed, it was easy to steal bikes. They have fixed this recently.
  • The lever to secure the seat was too small and people had trouble loosening it, they've now put huge levers on all bikes
  • The first bikes weren't at all reliable, for about 6 months I had trouble finding bikes that didn't have one or more of: tyres/brakes/seat/handlebar/chain/gears broken. I haven't used the service much in the last year because I got my own bike, but the times I have they have seemed more reliable.
  • Bike availability and parking spot availability. Stations that are on the top of hilly areas are always empty and stations near busy areas are always full. Solving this would require a lot more micromanagement of the bikes.
  • Instead of making an accessible web service for checking bike availability they decided to make an iPhone only app. This boggles my mind.

Other than that it's a great service when there aren't problems (I got charged 20 EUR when either the bike I had used got stolen or their system had a stroke and their records showed me having a bike for 8 hours, when I'd returned it after 26 minutes).

People have criticised using vans to micromanage the bikes, arguing that it offsets any ecological gains.

It initially cost 20 EUR/year, and is now 30 EUR/year. The pricing is:

  • First 30 min free.
  • Every 30 min after, and up to 2 hours total, 0.50 EUR.
  • After 2 hours, 3 EUR per hour until you return the bike. After this happens 3 times you get kicked off the service.
  • Steal a bike: 150 EUR.
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Dublin

There is a bike sharing scheme operating in Dublin and it works pretty well. The scheme launched on September 13th 2009, so less than year ago, and as for today more then 1 million journeys were made

The uptake of people was way grater than initially predicted, to quote the wikipedia

Approximately 1,000 people used the bicycles in the first six hours (day of launch), with a further thousand people having subscribed to use them.2 Some 11,000 people applied in the first fortnight and Dublin City Council's supply of subscriber cards was reduced to zero, with the Council having initially targeted a 5,000-person uptake in the first year. More than 25,000 people had applied to take part in the scheme by March 2010

As for the points that I think made the scheme work:

  • clever pricing system (more below)
  • very poor alternative in public transport around city centre
  • the bikes are transported by trucks if some of the spots run out of bikes and other are overloaded

On the pricing, the bikes are intended to be used for short journeys within the city centre and used by as many people as possible as opposed to be used by one person for a whole day, and the pricing reflects that. Once you pay one year membership (currently 10 euro) then the following prices apply:

  • up to 30 min - free
  • 1 hr - €0.50
  • 2 hrs €1.50
  • 3 hrs €3.50
  • 4 hrs €6.50

So as you see the first 30 minutes are free, and you should easily be able to reach each destination in the area operated by the scheme within that time. So cyclist leave the bike at the station as soon as they reach the destination, they do not hold on to it (e.g. keeping for the return journey). In that way a single bike can be used by more people

Official site of Dublin Bikes

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It does seem to cover a very small area. Not even upstream enough to catch Heuston station. Odd that you can't use a [frikkin'] Laser card (actually, not being able to use a Laser card isn't that unusual). –  Tom Hawtin - tackline Sep 14 '10 at 16:54
    
Similar system is being introduced in Vancouver - except cycle helmets are compulsory and the police do fine people. The loan doesn't include a helmet so it assumes people will be wandering around the town carrying a helmet. –  mgb Sep 17 '10 at 2:02
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Montreal

The city of Montreal, Quebec, Canada has had one for a while. I think that there has also been one in Europe.

I saw a documentary on CBC's DocZone that had some info about these systems. I think that you should be able to watch it online

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London

London Cycle Hire Scheme:

  • Much of the demand appears to come from commuters arriving at rail termini and avoiding the underground. Together with the journey home this causes major tidal problems. It seems as if this usage pattern is being supported (by using lorries to ferry bikes around).
  • Limited placement of stands near tube and train stations.
  • Despite being based on an existing scheme, rushed implementation (and presumably bad contract negotiation) means some things have been botched: It uses an entirely separate system to that used on the tube, buses and local rail (Oyster). Web site being unavailable. Getting journeys from other customers appear on your usage report (which indicates hopeless coding). If you have more than one key, you get a charged an access charge for all the keys even if you make a single journey.
  • Anecdotally, there have been issues with serious overcharging.
  • Theirs no basket and no panniers. Storage is limited to a small shelf with a bungee cord.
  • There's been problems with the bikes either having their brakes permanently rubbing or not working well.
  • It can be difficult to find a docking station. (Shaftesbury Avenue, I'm looking at you.)
  • Some people find the it hard to pull out bikes from the stands and push them back in.
  • Bikes are laughably heavy and the three gears are all low.

The scheme is currently on around 15,000 journeys a day.


Boris Bike:

Boris Bike is a bike sharing scheme in London, the "Boris" part comes from the mayor's name.

alt text

(Photo credit)

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@Tom - Is this the Barclays Cycle Hire, or "Boris" bike system? If so, will integrate that question into this. –  Neil Fein Oct 14 '10 at 3:51
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This is a spectacularly negative set of comments... not entirely wrong but focused solely on the negatives (I can't argue as I haven't used it yet). For what its worth - the oyster card one is easy, its not botched because as a security measure they have to have card details. You're absolutely right about Shaftesbury Ave - how weird! However "laughably heavy" and "three gears all low" are surely a reasonable reflection of the requirements of this sort of system (which needs to be thought of more as a form of public transport than as a "bicycle hire" scheme). –  Murph Oct 14 '10 at 8:11
    
@Murph Oyster cards are often associated with credit/debit cards, so that cannot be a problem. There are problems with Oyster cards: do-it-yourself security which has been broken; standards for such cards weren't quite finalised when the contracts were awarded, so it is proprietary (work has been done to remove the most expensive dependencies) and I believe next generation of cards will soon be upon us. I can't see a requirement to have the bike quite so heavy. I don't see the requirement to keep the bikes unnecessarily slow, which is unhelpful from safety PoV if other traffic is going faster. –  Tom Hawtin - tackline Oct 14 '10 at 13:23
    
@neilfein This is the London Cycle Hire Scheme. Initially sponsored by Barclays Bank. Calling it "Barclay Cycle Hire", doesn't really help locate it geographically. Calling them Boris (or BoJo) bikes is somewhat inaccurate and highly misleading, as the scheme was started by the previous mayor, [Red] Ken Livingstone. –  Tom Hawtin - tackline Oct 14 '10 at 13:28
    
@Tom - No, oyster cards do not have to be wired to a credit card. Bikes have to be robust - which, at the end of the day equals heavy. Bikes have to be useable by "non-cyclists" which, pragmatically, means lowish gearing (especially if they are heavy). Would more gears be better? well of course - but you still have to start low. –  Murph Oct 14 '10 at 18:25
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Minneapolis, MN

...has a three-season bike share program called NiceRide, featuring lime green cruiser bikes available at stations around the city. The bikes are quite comfortable, and an annual membership is $60.

The first "season" for NiceRide finished in November, here are some numbers from their end-of-season report

  • Total trips: 100,817
  • 1 year subscriptions sold: 1,295
  • 30-day subscriptions sold: 89
  • Casual (24hr) subscriptions sold: 29,077
  • Bikes lost or stolen: 2
  • Incidents of vandalism > $100: 3
  • No reports of serious injury.
  • 1 report of an accident involving a car, the front wheel was damaged, but the rider was not injured.

NiceRide has plans to expand in 2011, including building stations throughout the other member of the "Twin Cities" - Saint Paul.

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Paris

(and surrounding areas)

In France, there is the Vélib' system operated by a private company with subsidies of the city. The same company operates the same system in many other cities: Lyon, Nantes, Toulouse, Marseille, Caen, Besançon, Nice and probably others that I am not aware.

The main advantage of such systems is that the population of bikes on the streets is increased and automobilists become more careful.

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Here's a short ebook about cycling in Paris: images.bookdepository.co.uk/assets/images/content/blogs/… (PDF), from: bookdepository.co.uk/blog/post/tag/A-Tour-de-France-download –  Hugo Jul 23 '11 at 6:48
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Vancouver, Canada

Is supposed to be installing one this year, 3800 bikes and 250 stations according to their last report.

But - cycle helmets are required here ($100 fine) and the scheme doesn't propose hiring them - so it's going to be limited to existing cyclists. General opinion is that the money and space would be better spent on secured parking for peoples own bikes.

Edit:

Don't have time to go through this now, but here's a link to the Vancouver bike sharing program.

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Brisbane, Australia

Brisbane has a bike hire service called CityCycle.

CityCycle is an active and sustainable public transport option aimed at reducing traffic congestion and parking pressures in the inner city, as cars are replaced by cycle trips.

The city has also built an 'end-of-trip facility' called King George Square Cycle Centre.

  • 420 individual bike racks
  • male and female change rooms with a total of 35 showers
  • lockers
  • ironing/laundry service
  • excellent security
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Hangzhou, China

The largest bicycle sharing system in the world.

http://dirt.asla.org/2009/07/31/hangzhou-to-expand-bike-sharing-program-to-50000-bikes/

Hangzhou has 50,000 bikes at 2,050 stations around the city. People make an average of 240,000 trips a day on the bikes, which are completely integrated into the rest of the public transit system. By 2020, the plan is to have 175,000 bikes available for use.

Source

Bike sharing stations can be found in Hangzhou every 100 meters compared to the 300 meters in Paris. The first hour is free to users in Hangzhou, followed by 1 yuan ($0.15) for the first hour, 2 yuan the second hour, and 3 yuan each additional hour. During their first year operation, no bikes were stolen and very few were damaged or vandalized compared to the half that were stolen or damaged in Paris.

Source

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Washington, D.C.

...just started a bike share, and of course it has to be the largest in the US. I prefer to measure size by 'number of bikes being used per day/week/month' rather than 'number of bikes available in the system'. (Maybe there should be a per capita normalization, too.)

At any rate, the Greater DC area is an excellent place to ride a bike.

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Portland, Oregon

Incredibly, the city in the US that's often considered the friendliest to cyclists seems to have no bike-sharing system. There was an informal program in the 90's, the Yellow Bike program, but it was officially abandoned. (Although, maybe that's not the case?)

In 2008, they seemed to have given up on it, but the city website is hopeful and says they're currently evaluating bike-sharing programs.

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Melbourne, Australia

The system has yearly, weekly, and daily passes available. There are 50 stations available in the city, with a total of 600 bikes. Helmets are not supplied.

This June 2010 video tells you more about the bikes, but in case it goes away: The bikes are heavy, they have step-through frames, and are very, very blue.

Melbourne Bike Share

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@Tom Hawtin, this one's for you. :) –  Neil Fein May 24 '11 at 1:49
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Copenhagen, Denmark

Another interesting bike sharing system. What's unique about this system is that the bikes are free to use.

enter image description here

Copenhagen City Bikes or Bycykler København is the bicycle sharing system of Copenhagen, Denmark. Launched in 1995 with 1,000 cycles, the project was the world's first large-scale urban bike-sharing scheme. It features specially designed bikes with parts that cannot not be used on other bikes. Riders pay a refundable deposit at one of 110 special bike stands and have unlimited use of a bike within the specified downtown area. The scheme is funded by commercial sponsors. In return, the bikes carry advertisements, which appear on the bike frame and the solid-disk type wheels.

[Source]

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Boston, MA

"Hubway" is the equivalent to London's Boris bike here in Boston. They just showed up on the city streets this summer. I was also very surprised with how much of a success they are considering how heavy and clunky they look. Boston has a respectable number of bike riders and I was shocked to see more people riding these than personal bikes the first week after their arrival. My girlfriend does not own a bike and these made it possible for us to go on a bike ride around one of the parks here.

Based solely on my own unscientific observations, the vast majority of the riders appear to be tourists but apparently many have signed up for annual subscriptions.

I was curious if/how they redistributed the bikes between stations. My girlfriend said that she saw them moving them with a van in the middle of the night.

In just one month, Hubway signed up more than 2,300 annual subscribers... 36,000 folks took a one-day ride and if it keeps going like this, they’ll hit the 100,000 mark before the end of October. - CBS Boston

The Hubway currently has 61 stations and has added 600 bicycles to Boston neighborhoods. - The Daily Free Press

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Vienna, Austria

With excellent coverage of the old city center and linkage to an extensive bike trail network (on the sidewalks!), this system is well loved and well used, but it feels a bit worn down (the bikes are in terrible shape) and the system is old and cumbersome (not the excellent system now in use on London and Boston and soon to be deployed in New York). Still, it's an essential part of any visit to the city.

Jumble of bikes near the Technical University

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Madison, Wisconsin

Madison B-Cycle http://madison.bcycle.com/ is a three-season (no winter; spring starts April 1) bike-sharing service, available on the Isthmus (downtown) and in a few outlying areas of west and south campus. The step-through, three-speed Trek bikes are equipped with dynamo head and taillight, front basket, and skirt guard.

Anecdotally, I've seen a fair few of these out on the Lakeshore Path around Lake Mendota.

The local weekly's take: http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=34204

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New York City

Named Citi Bike, this system started May 27, 2013, with about 300 stations and 6000 bikes in Manhattan and Brooklyn.

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FYI - this seems to be very similar to London's Barclay's bike sharing - same looking docking stations, similar looking bikes, run by a major bank. –  DVK Aug 6 '13 at 15:04
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Newcastle, UK

Scratch Bikes is a bike sharing scheme in Newcastle upon Tyne that grew out of a Newcastle University venture.

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College Station, Texas

I was on campus at Texas A&M University when they first piloted a bike-sharing program called "Borrow-a-Bike". Of course, students thought it was a joke, because everyone knew what would happen: the bikes would all be stolen or destroyed. Like clockwork, all the bikes that were placed on campus were no longer available after about a week or so. A few even wound up in trees. Just because.

Apparently the idea stuck (or was revived), though. There is currently a Borrow a Bike program using these:

enter image description here

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In my bicycling history book, Bike Cult by David Perry, the author indicates that historically such schemes tend to fizzle out in a few years as the badly-maintained bikes remain unridden and the better ones get stolen or abandoned outside the area of the program.

We tried one briefly here at the university where I work, the "green bike" program. It lasted a couple of months.

If it can be made to work I applaud; difficulties remain maintainance and repair, adjustment to individual riders, workable pickup and drop-off points...

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Interesting, but while this doesn't answer the question, hold onto this thought: maybe one day we'll get a blog going for the site. –  Neil Fein Jun 4 '11 at 15:39
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Blog ping! bicycles.blogoverflow.com –  Hugo Jul 16 '11 at 21:37
    
@Hugo - Indeed! Would anyone like to write a blog article on bike sharing? –  Neil Fein Sep 12 '11 at 1:22
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