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?
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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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.