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Bike Sharing - Public Bikes


Bike share programs have gained popularity in the last five years because of the benefits that cities get from implementing such programs. Some of these benefits include supplementing the city’s public transportation system, reducing the city’s travel-related carbon footprint, and increasing the physical activity of city residents. The report, produced by Alta Planning and Design, examines the key features of a successful bike share program and provides recommendations to assist public agencies in selecting an optimal bike share program that will meet the needs of their local community.

Key Points

Bike share programs can provide a safe and convenient mode of transportation for short trips around town. New innovations in technology have made bike share programs more practical and implementable for many U.S. cities, although they have not made bike share programs infallible. It is important that the correct technology and services be packaged together to meet the specific needs of each city. Factors such as logistical issues, local economies, available technologies, and service areas can impact the success of a bike share program. Therefore, any local agency considering a bike share program should conduct an internal assessment of these issues before implementing such a program.

Technology-driven bike share programs have common elements and features including equipment and systems, as well as maintenance and management requirements. However, the style in which these elements are used will determine the success of the bike share program.

Other report highlights include:

  • Parking and locking mechanisms must be used to ensure bicycles are secured and protected. Two major locking technologies are currently in use; both are fully-automated and are intended to protect bikes from being stolen or misused. The first system uses smart cards that contain users’ registration and payment information, while the other uses a “call-a-bike” system that allows users to dial a number, provide their payment information, and essentially check out a bike. The Washington D.C. bike share program uses smart card technology. The “call-a-bike” system has been very popular in many German bike share programs.
  • Management of bike fleets is a key aspect of successful bike share programs. To ensure the bike share system is in optimal operating condition and bicycles are available at each station, GPS units or RFID tags should be used to monitor and manage bicycle demand.

How to Use

Local planners, public agencies, government officials, and community leaders can use this report to gain an understanding of the elements needed to implement an effective, convenient, and successful bike share program in their city or local community. Public agencies can use the steps provided at the end of the report to conduct an independent system evaluation and assessment before selecting a bike share vendor for their local bike share program.

View full report: Bike Sharing – Public Bikes (PDF – 422 KB)

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