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The Bike-Share Planning Guide

Posted by Content Coordinator on Monday, December 9th, 2013



Bike-share has taken many forms over the course of its development, from free bikes left for a community to use at will to more technologically advanced and secure systems. In every iteration, the essence of bike-share remains simple: anyone can pick up a bike in one place and return it to another, making point-to-point, human-powered transportation feasible.

Today, more than 600 cities around the globe have their own bike-share systems, and more programs are starting every year. The largest systems are in China, in cities such as Hangzhou and Shanghai. In Paris, London, and Washington, D.C., highly successful systems have helped to promote cycling as a viable and valued transport option.

Each city has made bike-share its own, adapting it to the local context, including the city’s density, topography, weather, infrastructure, and culture. Although other cities’ examples can serve as useful guides, there is no single model of bike-share.

However, many of the most successful systems share certain common features:

  • A dense network of stations across the coverage area, with an average spacing of 300 meters between stations
  • Comfortable, commuter-style bicycles with specially designed parts and sizes that discourage theft and resale
  • A fully automated locking system that allows users to check bicycles easily in or out of bike-share stations
  • A wireless tracking system, such as radio-frequency identification devices (RFIDs), that locates where a bicycle is picked up and returned and identifies the user
  • Real-time monitoring of station occupancy rates through wireless communications, such as general packet radio service (GPRS)
  • Real-time user information through various platforms, including the web, mobile phones and/or on-site terminals
  • Pricing structures that incentivize short trips helping to maximize the number of trips per bicycle per day

Fig. 1: Growth of Bike-share Worldwide (January 2000–July 2013)

When the first bike-share opened in the 1960s, bikeshare growth worldwide was relatively modest. It wasn’t until after the turn of the century and the launch of Velo’v in Lyon, France, in 2005 and Vélib’ in Paris in 2007 that growth in bike-share exploded.

This guide is meant to bridge the divide between developing and developed countries’ experiences with bike-share. It should be useful in helping to plan and implement a bike-share system regardless of the location, size, or density of your city.

Download full version (PDF): Institute for Transportation & Development Policy

About the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy
“The Institute for Transportation and Development Policy works with cities worldwide to bring about sustainable transport solutions that cut greenhouse gas emissions, reduce poverty, and improve the quality of urban life.” 

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