Bike-sharing programs have proven to make a positive impact on cities by promoting healthy lifestyles, encouraging urban exploration, building community, and providing an environmentally friendly commuting option. According to Business Insider, the number of shared bikes for public use around the world tripled between 2013 and 2016, and their success is rooted in the effectiveness of program design. Some of the major considerations that go into designing a bike-sharing program include where docking stations are distributed throughout each city, payments and cost-per-rental, bike design, bike maintenance, bike access, and safety features, to name a few.
It's no surprise that bike-sharing programs in urban and small cities across the world are paving the way as one of the most cosmopolitan public transportation solutions, though there are some concerns about their effectiveness. For example, what is the best way to ensure that city- and company-owned bikes are used properly and safeguarded against vandalism and theft? How do bike-sharing programs address issues on terrain and weather that discourage their usage? How about issues around low-usage and loss of investment? What is the best way to maintain these widely used bikes?
These issues can be addressed and resolved by integrating IoT into bike-share programs. For instance, collecting data regarding when, where, and for how long bikes travel can show program developers how to tailor bike-share programs to optimize bike access within locations and time frames that are highly frequented, thereby increasing ridership in cases where usage is low. Similar to the way predictive maintenance works in connected cars, IoT technology for bike-share programs can generate condition data to inform bike maintenance needs, which can be especially important with thousands of bikes and users involved.
Many cities around the world have implemented highly successful bike-sharing programs, often addressing issues through integrated IoT. By taking a look at these examples, it is easy to see what works and what may need improvement in current and future bike-sharing programs.
How Bike Sharing is Taking Off in China
Hangzhou, Taiyuan, and Shanghai have implemented some of the most successful bike-sharing programs in the world. Taiyuan, China, for example, has a population of 3.5 million with between 20,000 and 41,000 shared bikes and around 1,000 docking stations―a tight bike-to-person ratio. Hangzhou’s population is double the size of Taiyuan’s, with more than double the bike-share infrastructure: 66,500 to 78,000 bicycles among 2,700 stations. Supplying a lot of bikes makes these bike-share programs highly visible and readily available, which is the first step in the popularity and accessibility of their use among a diverse group of people.
In Shanghai, where the population is a massive 24 million, people are using shared bikes as a solution to traffic issues. Since the city has implemented easy-to-navigate bike paths between intelligently-placed docking stations near key business and community hubs, the city’s bike-sharing program has a very high success rate that is supported by a cooperative effort between business and local government.
Key Takeaways from China’s Bike Share Programs
- There should be a functional bike-to-person ratio for visibility and availability purposes.
- Location, location, location. Strategize placing bike stations near community hubs, such as businesses, parks, neighborhoods, universities, central stations (bus and train), and bike paths.
Where the Roads Are Leading in Europe
Paris, France is world-renowned for Vélib’, the government-funded bike-sharing program that stemmed out of a bikes-for-billboards trade between the city and a large-scale advertising company. Vélib’ bikes use IoT to improve locking systems and rider orientation, and these bikes connect to users’ smartphones, via Bluetooth, to help them keep track of rental time, distance traveled, and navigation information. Vélib’ minimizes vandalism and theft, and ensures the responsible use of their bikes, by requiring renters to put down a $150-dollar deposit with each rental. Because there are many hills in Paris, cyclists are inclined to rent bikes up top and drop them off down below, leaving an unbalanced distribution of bikes among docking stations. Vélib’ counters this concern by providing free riding time to users who return bikes to docks at higher elevations.
In London, England, shared bikes provided by Santander Cycles recently have taken steps to reduce riding injuries by retrofitting all 11,500 of their shared bikes with the Beryl Laserlight. The laserlight projects a green bike symbol on the road five meters ahead of each cyclist, signaling to motor vehicles that a bike-share rider is nearby. This solution came into being as a response to smart data collected by these shared bikes that tracked usage and collisions patterns. Working alongside Santander Cycles, Urban Cycle Loan aims to widen bike-sharing access by offering discount incentives through word of mouth to non-cyclists who may otherwise find modern bike-sharing unapproachable or unaffordable.
By requiring users to sign up for a membership, Bicing in Barcelona, Spain has made a point to steer their bike-sharing program away from tourists and towards a cyclist community among locals and commuters, which also has reduced problems with vandalism and misuse.
Key Takeaways from Europe’s Bike Share Programs
- Implement safety and security systems, such as down payment insurance, laserlights, and tracking devices to prevent costs associated with damages, maintenance, and accidents.
- Consider offering incentives for riders so as to help control the flow of where bicycles are picked up and dropped off.
- Offer separate programs for different types of riders (for example, a tourist program and a commuter program, as well as color coding bicycles and stations to differentiate usage groups).
Getting a Handle on Bike-Sharing in North America
New York City, USA implemented a privately owned, public bike-sharing program run by Citi Bikes in 2013. Being one of the first cities to bring bike-sharing to the United States, the program has been well-received for it solution to intense traffic issues in New York and overall high automobile usage in the U.S. Additionally, the introduction of shared e-bikes (electric bikes) are providing a way for public transportation in NYC to stay up-to-speed with growing delivery service companies that require employees to frequent multiple routes as quickly as possible.
Run by a company called Bixi, fewer bikes and docking stations constitute the bike-share program in Montreal, Canada. Nonetheless, there has been an impressively high amount of ridership among this small batch of resources, likely due to these shared-bikes’ integration of IoT that allows riders to plan trips and view where docking stations are located through the Bixi app. Because culture and cycling are strong in Montreal, the city has benefited greatly from shared bike use among tourists who need a quick and commitment-free way of getting around.
Key Takeaways from North America’s Bike Share Programs
- Electric bikes may offer faster transportation for delivery services.
- An app that helps riders locate nearby docking stations helps minimize the number of bikes needed in a bike-sharing program and still support a high number of riders.
Riding in Tandem with Aeris
Successful bike-sharing programs all over the world prove that these initiatives benefit cities by reducing traffic, increasing mobility and public resources, minimizing the impact of greenhouse gases from automobiles, cultivating a cycling culture, promoting tourism, and building community. Many of these programs have developed innovative ways to overcome obstacles that initially concerned entrepreneurs and city planners. And, with the right team of program developers, there is the possibility of continuous improvement for the future of bike sharing.
Aeris has the right technology and network solutions to build successful partnerships with developers in all kinds of bike-sharing programs. We are excited about implementing new bike-sharing programs in urbanized areas, as well as smaller cities reaching for an innovative solution to their public transportation systems.