Long before bike-sharing became a buzzword, the streets of Amsterdam in the 1960s saw the dawn of a novel idea. The Witte Fietsenplan, or the White Bikes Plan, initiated by the Dutch innovator Luud Schimmelpennink, introduced the concept of shared bicycles to the world. The premise was straightforward—bicycles were painted white and left in public spaces for anyone to use. Though not a commercial venture, it was a statement against the rising pollution from cars. Witte Fietsen may have attracted much attention, but it was short-lived. The free bikes were quickly removed by the police, who were hostile to Provo’s anarchist initiatives. But for bike sharing schemes, it was just the beginning.
Image Source: http://nva.org.uk/artwork/witte-fietsenplan-white-bike-plan/
In the mid 90s, Denmark launched the world’s first large-scale bike share programme. It worked on a deposit. You dropped a coin in the bike and when you returned it, you got your money back. A lot of bikes got stolen though, because the users could remain anonymous.
Over the last two decades we have seen a bike sharing boom, mainly due to a dramatic increase in technological innovation, the ever growing popularity of the circle economy and new green policies being introduced by cities around the world, in accordance the UN sustainable development goals.
More recently, over the last few years, we have seen a new trend in bike sharing, electric bicycles or e-bikes.
In this article, we dive into the advantages of bike sharing and how the integration of micromobility services with our public transit services can benefits users, operators and cities.
The Benefits of Bike Sharing Explored: 2023 Update
Bike Sharing Benefits For Users:
Bike sharing systems offer a practical and economical travel option, it especially makes a difference for people living in low-income areas. They broaden the scope of transportation to suburban areas that traditional public transit often misses, promoting a fairer balance in mobility across communities.
Jumping onto a bike share is also a gateway to active transportation, bringing along a good share of health benefits. The daily routine of cycling to work, whether by design or by chance, serves as a form of exercise. Post-pandemic, there’s a heightened focus on health, making bike commuting an attractive choice.
In a recent study by Colorado State University in the U.S., it was found that the implementation of bike share systems resulted in a calculated reduction of 4.7 premature deaths, 737 DALYS (disability-adjusted life years) and 36 million dollars (USD) in health economic impacts annually. There were several reasons behind these results, such as the fact that cycling leads to far less traffic incidents than cars. However, the main driver behind the results was as obvious as it is under-spoken: Increased physical activity.
Moreover, those who cycle daily help ease the urban congestion, cut down on transportation costs, and champion environmental sustainability with zero fuel usage and carbon emissions. It’s worth mentioning that bike share users are saving an average of $563 annually, displaying both the financial and environmental advantages of this transport mode.
Real-world examples like the Vélo’v program in Lyon, France, shed light on the positive ripple effects on urban mobility, showing how bike sharing holds its ground against car transportation for short hops across town. Also, a bit of number crunching from Ohio State University highlights the promise of bike sharing as a viable alternative to car trips, emphasizing its role in untangling urban traffic jams.
Bike Sharing Benefits For Operators:
During the pandemic, a noticeable dip in public transportation ridership was witnessed globally. This spurred a shift towards more personal modes of transit, with cycling and active transportation emerging as top picks. The period saw cities fast-tracking policies to ramp up cycling infrastructure. Establishing public-private bike share partnerships post-pandemic has become a smoother journey, given the vested interest of cities in nurturing these transportation networks. Operators find a friendlier climate to secure city subsidies, aiding the initiation and operation of bike sharing schemes. The scalable business model of bike sharing is an attractive prospect for mobility operators.
Micromobility Business Models
Moreover, the corporate sector might extend a helping hand to bike share providers, viewing it as a cost-effective solution for corporate mobility, as opposed to the utilization of private cars. Bike sharing can streamline business operations and offer employees a wallet-friendly and healthier commute option. This sentiment is mirrored in educational realms like universities, always on the lookout for budget-friendly transit solutions for students shuttling across campus.
Now, there’s a hidden gem in bike sharing—the treasure trove of data it amasses. The information harvested from bike share schemes is a gold mine for retail, restaurant, and car sales businesses, not to mention local governments hungry for insightful data for urban planning and management endeavors. This data can morph into a revenue stream, adding another feather in the cap of bike sharing benefits. The journey doesn’t end here; bike share operators have the opportunity to churn out profits by leveraging the physical body of the bikes and the app interface as advertising platforms.
A Brief Introduction to Micromobility
Bike Sharing Benefits For Cities:
A driving force behind cities rallying for Bike Share Systems (BSS) is the aspiration to enhance air quality. The habitual use of single-occupancy vehicles is a major culprit in spewing greenhouse gas emissions in urban settings. The climate crisis, knocking at our doors, has propelled municipalities globally to champion policies and initiatives that curb car dependency – bike share schemes are stepping into this arena.
Rolling out more bike share schemes, cities are chipping away at the necessity for personal cars, which spells good news for traffic congestion. This shift is also a windfall for local businesses, thanks to the uptick in overall and spontaneous shopper foot traffic. But the ripple effects of BSS don’t stop there; they extend to smarter land use by fostering spatial economic optimization through enhanced public and private land usage. Say goodbye to the sprawling parking lots and hello to more livable, verdant spaces in urban cores.
The reduction in traffic congestion isn’t just a theoretical claim. Take Washington D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare program, which led to a 4% dip in traffic congestion according to a study by the Mineta Transportation Institute. This real-world example underscores the potential of BSS in untangling urban traffic knots.
Moreover, the transformation of parking lots into green spaces is not a far-fetched idea. Look at the city of Copenhagen, a poster child for cycling infrastructure. The city’s push for cycling and bike-sharing has reclaimed urban spaces, which once served as parking lots, turning them into vibrant green areas or bustling social zones.
Further, bike share schemes also have a financial story to tell. They open up avenues for new investments in urban infrastructure, be it through public funding or private partnerships like the Citi Bike program in New York City. The mesh of environmental, economic, and social benefits that bike share schemes bring to the table showcases their role as a linchpin in crafting sustainable, livable, and economically vibrant urban landscapes.
A Recipe for Micromobility Integrations
The Rise of E-biking Sharing
E-bikes embody a blend of convenience and affordability in transportation, offering a level of accessibility that traditional mechanical bikes fall short of. On the move, riders cover an impressive 1.7 times more distance on a shared e-bike compared to its mechanical counterpart. The appeal of e-bike sharing is further underscored by the substantial uptick in ridership, which, on average, soars to 3 to 5 times higher than regular mechanical bike share schemes. This surge in popularity isn’t just a passing trend; it translates into drawing new users into the fold, enhancing overall utilization, which in turn, bolsters revenue streams for operators.
movmi’s Jie Chen analyzed trip data available from Mobi by Shaw Go’s website and supporting cycling infrastructure data from Open Street Maps. The data was from August 2022 to January 2023, separating e-bike and non-ebike trips to see if there is a difference in trip patterns and usage. The data showed that ebikes have the potential to increase social equity within the transportation network. People who live on the outskirts of the city (those who may not be able to afford accommodation closer to downtown) and the communities with the larger proportion of discounted passes had a preference for the e-bike system.
E-bike sharing steps up as a viable solution to the first/last-mile conundrum, especially in regions where public transportation services are sparse. As urban centers pivot away from a car-centric approach, Travel Demand Management (TDM) strategies are finding a cozy spot within development and transportation blueprints. The narrative is compelling—between 50-84% of car trips are getting swapped out for e-bike journeys. This shift is a positive stride towards helping cities hit their marks on climate action goals, social accessibility, and the broader vision of multimodal and car-lite urban transit.
A glance at the numbers reveals the growing allure of e-bike sharing. The global market is on an upward trajectory, projected to reach $6.98 billion by 2027, illustrating the increasing appetite for this green mode of transportation.
Case studies across the globe echo the promise of e-bike sharing. Take BiciMAD in Madrid, for instance, which showcased the transformative power of e-bike sharing in fostering a cycling culture in a city with an emerging cycling infrastructure. Meanwhile, the town of Velenje in Slovenia explored the integration of an electric bike-sharing system to enhance the local transit ecosystem, underscoring the versatility and impact of e-bike sharing.
The foray into e-bike sharing isn’t merely a nod to modernization; it’s a concerted effort to redefine urban mobility. The environmental, social, and financial dividends are clear indicators of e-bike sharing’s pivotal role in steering urban landscapes towards a sustainable, accessible, and economically viable future.