Many major cities now have bike sharing schemes, and each seems to have its own system of rates, designed to encourage shorter rides and quick returns; but it's hard to compare them. Is there a reference somewhere that draws direct comparisons among the pricing schemes for the major bike sharing systems?

  • What problem do you have which the answer to this question solves? This is interesting, but how does this constitute a practical, answerable questions based on actual problems that you face? Are you planning a worldwide trip where you will rent bikes in each city? – zenbike Jul 9 '12 at 4:34
  • Really? That's not a serious guess (or a very helpful one). – orome Jul 9 '12 at 4:40
  • It was intended to be helpful only by pointing out that this kind of question is too subjective to be a good fit for bicycles.SE. We are more relaxed here than some other SE sites, but it still needs to be practical, answerable question which solves a problem which you face, as stated in the FAQ I linked to above. I would vote to close, but if I do, your question will automatically be closed, and i wanted to give you the opportunity to explain the problem you are trying to solve, first. So, what problem are you trying to solve? Or to put it another way, where is the practical value here? – zenbike Jul 9 '12 at 4:45
  • I was thinking that a thorough answer to the question asked by my town government in their consideration of participating in the extension of a a nearby bike sharing scheme was "practical". – orome Jul 9 '12 at 5:08
  • 1
    This information could be invaluable for potential customers in deciding whether or not they want to support a shared-bicycle system. It might even be a consideration for people considering moving to a new city (how expensive/viable is the transportation). I live in Dublin, Ireland - they have something called 'DublinBikes' here. Without a reference point, it is difficult to know if I'm supporting a good system with a fair price and quality service. – Rob P. Jul 12 '12 at 10:51

A quick Google brought up This article. It shows a list of prices for bike sharing rates in 10 cities around the world. It shows prices for various lengths of time that you can rent/borrow the bike for. In most places, the first 30 minutes (sometimes 45 minutes) are free, if you pay for a small yearly membership.

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  • Pine Island, Minnesota has them all beat: Free on weekends. – Daniel R Hicks Jul 8 '12 at 23:34
  • Good link, but there are some bugs in the first two figures: they don't take the base plan cost into account, and the stack values that they mean to compare. I've gone and worked out some examples for a few plans. – orome Jul 9 '12 at 0:10

All of the large cycle hire schemes offer several plans and for each, the cost of a ride depends on the length of the ride, as well as the number of rides during the period covered by the plan.

Assuming 2 rides on 24 hour pass, some example plans stack up like this, for rides of up to 2 hours:

enter image description here

Here and in subsequent figures, four systems are shown, London's, Boston's, New York's and Washington DC's, represented by the livery color used by each — light, Barclay's blue for London, Hubway green for Boston, dark "citi" blue for New York, and red for Washington DC. Solid lines are for single day plans, while thin dashed lines are for example annual plans, assuming 50 rides.

The first thing that's clear is that — not surprisingly — cost goes up with duration. The second is that plans have similar structures, in which costs go up in steps, typically at 30 minute intervals. More surprisingly, perhaps, is the significant difference in cost, with New York being most and London being least expensive.

This figure is a bit misleading though, since all of these systems are designed for short rides of generally less than 30 minutes, and certainly less than an hour. Focusing on these gives a better picture of actual scenarios:

enter image description here

Both if these figures though conceal a misconception about the pricing schemes that all of these systems use: that they discourage long rides. This is really only partly true, and only true, as it were, "in steps", as one can clearly see by looking at the cost per minute, for "rides" of up to 24 hours:

enter image description here

Here, some odd features are exposed, notably the leveling off of cost per minute, the jump in average cost in London (from being cheapest, to matching New York's most expensive), and the long decline in some cities.

Again, it's most useful to focus on short rides:

enter image description here

Over this range the outstanding feature is the rise and fall of per minute cost, the initially very high cost per minute, and, again, the large difference in cost between systems.

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