A bicycle-sharing system, public bicycle system, or bike-share scheme, is a service in which bicycles are made available for shared use to individuals on a very short term basis for a price. Bike share schemes allow people to borrow a bike from a "dock" and return it at other dock in the city, as long as the two docks belong to the same system. Docks are similar to bike racks, except that all the bikes are locked into the dock, and can only be released a computer located in a kiosk at one end. The user enters their payment information, and the computer unlocks one of the available bikes. When the user returns the bike, they place it in the dock, and enter their information into the computer, and it locks the bike into the dock.

Many bike-share systems offer subscriptions that make the first 30–45 minutes of use either free or very inexpensive, encouraging use as transportation. This allows each bike to serve several users per day.

In most bike-share cities, casual riding over several hours or days is better served by bicycle rental than by bike-share. For many systems, smartphone mapping apps show nearby stations with available bikes and open docks.

Bike-share began in Europe in 1965[2] and a viable format emerged in the mid-2000s thanks to the introduction of information technology. As of June 2014, public bike share systems were available in 50 countries on five continents, including 712 cities, operating approximately 806,200 bicycles at 37,500 stations.[3][4] As of May 2011, the Wuhan and Hangzhou Public Bicycle bike-share systems in China were the largest in the world, with around 90,000 and 60,000 bicycles respectively.[1] Of the world's 15 biggest public bike share programs 13 of them are in China.[5] By 2013, China had a combined fleet of 650,000 public bikes.[6] With the arrival of dockless bike shares, there are now over 70 private dockless bikeshares operating a combined fleet of 16 million sharebikes in China.[7] Beijing alone has 2.35 million sharebikes from 15 companies.[8] The Vélib' in Paris is the largest outside China.[1] The countries with the most dock based systems are Spain (132), Italy (104), and China (79).[1][9] As of July 2013, the systems with the higher market penetration are both operating in France, the Parisian Velib' with 1 bike per 97 inhabitants and Vélo'v in Lyon with one bike per 121 residents.[10]

Bicycle-sharing systems may be "Community Bike programmes" organised by local community groups or non-profit organisations as done in IIT Bombay; "Smart Bike programmes" implemented by government agencies sometimes in a public–private partnership as in London, or "smart bike programmes" operated by private companies as is the case in most cities in China.[11] Their central concept is to provide free or affordable access to bicycles for short-distance trips in an urban area as an alternative to motorised public transport or private vehicles, thereby reducing congestion, noise, and air pollution. Bicycle-sharing systems have also been cited as a way to solve the "last mile" problem and connect users to public transit networks.[12]

People use bike-share for various reasons. Some who would otherwise use their own bicycle have concerns about theft or vandalism, parking or storage, and maintenance.[13][14] However, serving only stations, the service resembles public transit, and has therefore been criticised as less convenient than a privately owned bicycle used door-to-door.[15] Government-run bicycle-sharing programmes can also prove costly to the public unless subsidised by commercial interests, typically in the form of advertising on stations or the bicycles themselves.[16]

BuBi, the biggest bicycle sharing system in Budapest, Hungary operated by BKK and MOL with over 100 stations in the city.

E-bike sharing is becoming more popular. The e-bikes are generally recharged upon parking them at their station.[17] E-bikes extend the range of the bikes and make cities with more difficult topographies more accessible to biking.[18] In 2009, Chiyu Chen proposed the Hybrid2-system which stores some of the pedal power on a (ultra) capacitor. Similar to vehicle-to-grid systems, the energy is then fed back to the main electricity grid.[19] The Ohio State University announced plans to integrate electric assist bicycles as part of its bicycle share program launching in 2015.[20]


Goods Classification

Bicycle-sharing systems are an economic good, and are generally classified as a private good due to their excludable and rivalrous nature. While some bicycle-sharing systems are free, most require some user fee or subscription, thus excluding the good to paying consumers. Bicycle-sharing systems also provide a discrete and limited number of bikes, whose distribution can vary throughout a city. One person's usage of the good diminishes the ability of others to use the same good. Nonetheless, the hope of many cities is to partner with bike-share companies to provide something close to a public good.[21] Public good status may be achieved if the service is free to consumers and there are a sufficient number of bicycles such that one person's usage does not encroach upon another's use of the good.


White bicycles for free use, in Hoge Veluwe National Park, the Netherlands

Bike-sharing systems have undergone changes which can be categorised into three key phases, or generations. These include the first generation, called white bikes (or free bikes); the second generation of coin-deposit systems; and the third generation, or information technology (IT) based systems. Recent technological and operational improvements are also paving the way for a fourth generation, known as the demand-responsive, multimodal system.[1][22]

Although users of such systems generally pay to use vehicles that they themselves do not own, sharing systems differ from traditional for-profit bike rental businesses. The first bike sharing projects were largely initiated by local community organisations, either as charitable projects intended for the disadvantaged, or to promote bicycles as a non-polluting form of transport. In recent years, in an effort to reduce losses from theft and vandalism, many bike-sharing schemes now require a user to provide a monetary deposit or other security, or to become a paid subscriber. Most large-scale urban bike sharing programmes utilise numerous bike check-out stations, and operate much like public transit systems, catering to tourists and visitors as well as local residents. Some bike-sharing systems are completely free like Aarhus City Bikes in Denmark.[23]

To date, no publicly owned and administered bicycle sharing programme has yet been able to consistently operate as a self-funding enterprise, using only revenues generated from membership subscriptions or user fees and charges.[citation needed] As a consequence, most publicly owned bicycle sharing systems utilise funding from public governmental and/or charitable sources. Bike sharing schemes may be administered by government entities, nonprofit private organisations, or via public-private partnerships.

Many bicycle sharing schemes have been developed by a variety of organisations over the years, all based on one or more of the following systems:

In this type of programme the bicycles are simply released into a city or given area for use by anyone. In some cases, such as a university campus, the bicycles are only designated for use within certain boundaries. Users are expected to leave the bike unlocked in a public area once they reach their destination. Because the bike is not required to be returned to a centralised station, ready availability of such bicycles is rare, and since unlocked bikes may be taken by another user at any time, the original rider is forced to find alternative transport for the return trip. Bicycle sharing programs without locks, user identification, and security deposits have also historically suffered large loss rates from theft and vandalism.
Most large 21st century systems use information technology (IT) for bicycle reservations, pick-up, drop-off, and tracking.
A small cash deposit releases the bike from a locked terminal and can only be retrieved by returning it to another. Since the deposit (usually one or more coins) is a fraction of the bike's cost, this does little to deter theft. Other bike sharing programmes have implemented rules requiring the user to provide a valid credit card, along with substantial security deposits for bicycles and mandatory security locks.
In this version of the system, bicycles are kept either at volunteer-run hubs or at self-service terminals throughout the city. Individuals registered with the program identify themselves with their membership card (or by a smart card, via cell phone, or other methods) at any of the hubs to check out a bicycle for a short period of time, usually three hours or less. In many schemes the first half-hour is free. The individual is responsible for any damage or loss until the bike is returned to another hub and checked in.
Many of the membership-based systems are operated through public-private partnerships. Several European cities, including the French cities of Lyon and Paris as well as London, Barcelona, Stockholm and Oslo, have signed contracts with private advertising agencies (JCDecaux in Brussels, Lyon, Paris, Seville, Dublin and Oslo; Clear Channel in Stockholm, Barcelona, Antwerp, Perpignan and Zaragoza) which supply the city with thousands of bicycles free of charge (or for a minor fee). In return, the agencies are allowed to advertise both on the bikes themselves and in other select locations in the city. Some other programmes are not linked to an advertising deal (for example Smoove) and are financed as a part of public transportation scheme. These programmes attempt to reduce losses from theft by requiring users to purchase subscriptions with a credit card or debit card (this option requiring a large, temporary deposit) and by equipping the bike with complex anti-theft and bike maintenance sensors. If the bike is not returned within the subscription period, or returned with significant damage, the bike sharing operator withdraws money from the user's credit card account.
In China, there was a rapid increase in the size and use of private app driven "dockless" bike share networks in the 2010s. Dockless bike shares are designed whereby a user need not return the bike to a kiosk or station; rather, the next user can find it by GPS.[24][25][26] Over 30 private companies have started operating in China.[27][28] In particular, Mobike and Ofo have become the world's largest bike share operators with millions of bikes spread over 100 cities, mostly in China.[29] They have also spread elsewhere,[30] where they have been criticized as "rogue" systems instituted without respect for local authorities.[31] In some jurisdictions, authorities have been conficascating “rogue” dockless bicycles that are improperly parked for potentially blocking foot traffic on sidewalks.[32]

Long-term checkout

Sometimes known as bike library systems, these bicycles may be lent free of charge, for a refundable deposit, or for a small fee. A bicycle is checked out to one person who will typically keep the bike for several months, and is encouraged or obliged to lock it between uses. A disadvantage of this system is a lower usage frequency, around three uses per day on average as compared to 10 to 15 uses per day typically experienced with other bike-sharing schemes.

Advantages of long-term use include rider familiarity with the bicycle and a mode of travel that is always nearby and instantly ready for use. The bicycle can be checked out like a library book, a liability waiver can be collected at check-out, and the bike can be returned any time. A Library Bike in a person's possession can be chosen for some trips instead of a car, thus lowering car usage. The long-term rental system generally results in fewer repair costs to the scheme administrator, as riders are incentivised to obtain minor maintenance in order to keep the bike in running order during the long rental period. Most of the long-term systems implemented to date are funded solely through charitable donations of second-hand bicycles, using unpaid volunteer labour to maintain, and administer the bicycle fleet. While reducing or eliminating the need for public funding, such a scheme imposes an outer limit to program expansion. The Arcata Bike Library, in California, has loaned over 4000 bicycles using this system.

Partnership with public transport sector

In a national-level programme that combines a typical rental system with several of the above system types, a passenger railway operator or infrastructure manager partners with a national cycling organisation and others to create a system closely connected with public transport. These programmes usually allow for a longer rental time of up to 24 or 48 hours, as well as tourists and round trips. In some German cities the national rail company offers a bike rental service called Call a Bike.

In Guangzhou, China, the privately operated Guangzhou Bus Rapid Transit system includes cycle lanes, and a public bicycle system.[33]

In some cases, like Santander Cycles in London, the bicycle sharing system is owned by the public transport authority itself.

In other cases, like EnCicla in the city of Medellin (Colombia, South America), the Bicycle Sharing System is connected to other modes of transportation, such as the Metro.[34]

Partnership with car park operators

Some car park operators such as Vinci Park in France lend bikes to their customers who park a car.[35]

Partnership with car-share operations

City CarShare, a San Francisco-based non-profit, received a federal grant in 2012 to integrate electric bicycles within its existing car-sharing fleet. The program is set to launch before the end of 2012 with 45 bikes.[36]


Bicycle station in the Washington, D.C., suburbs powered by solar panels

Many community-run bicycle programmes paint their bicycles in a strong solid colour, such as yellow or white. Painting the bicycles helps to advertise the programme, as well as deter theft (a painted-over bicycle frame is normally less desirable to a buyer). However, theft rates in many bike-sharing programmes remain high, as most shared-use bicycles have value only as basic transport, and may be resold to unsuspecting buyers after being cleaned and repainted. In response, some large-scale bike sharing programmes have designed their own bike using specialised frame designs and other parts to prevent disassembly and resale of stolen parts.

Another advantage of bike-sharing systems is that the smart-cards allow the bicycles to be returned to any station in the system, which facilitates one-way rides to work, education or shopping centres. Thus, one bike may take 10–15 rides a day with different users and can be ridden up to 10,000 km (6,200 mi) a year (citing Lyon, France). Each bike has at least one of these rides with one unique user per day which indicates that in 2014 there were a minimum of at least 294 million unique bike share cyclists worldwide (806,200 bicycles x 365) although common sense indicates that this figure may be a very small estimate of the true number of bike share users.[37]

It was found—in cities like Paris and Copenhagen—that to have a major impact there had to be a high density of available bikes. Copenhagen has 2500 bikes which cannot be used outside the 9 km2 (3.5 sq mi) zone of the city centre (a fine of DKr 1000 applies to any user taking bikes across the canal bridges around the periphery). Since Paris's Vélib' programme operates with an increasing fee past the free first half-hour, users have a strong disincentive to take the bicycles out of the city centre. The distance between stations is only 300–400 metres (1,000–1,300 ft) in inner city areas.

A LinkBike station in George Town, Penang. The public bicycle sharing service was launched in 2016.[38]


In May 2011, there were around 375 bikesharing systems comprising 236,000 bicycles, and by April 2013 there were around 535 schemes around the world, made of an estimated fleet of 517,000 bicycles.[9] As of June 2014, public bikesharing systems were operating in 50 countries on five continents, including 712 cities, operating approximately 806,200 bicycles at 37,500 stations.[3][4]

In 2012 the Wuhan and Hangzhou Public Bicycle programs in China are the largest in the world, with around 90,000 and 60,000 bicycles respectively. China has seen a rise in private "dockless" bike shares with fleets that dwarf systems in size outside China.[39] One such bike share alone, Mobike, operates 100,000 dockless bikes in each of the cities of Shanghai, Beijing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou.[40] Another operator, Bluegogo operates 35,000 bikes in Shenzhen, 25,000 bikes in Guangzhou, and 10,000 in Chengdu.[41] Overall, there are more than 30 private bike share operators that have put over 3 million dockless bikes in various cities in China.[42] By late 2017, the Ministry of Transport reported that China's dockless bike fleet has grown to 16 million bikes.[43] The Vélib' in Paris, which comprises around 18,000 bicycles and 1,230 bicycle stations, is the largest outside China. Santander Cycles in London has about 8,000 bikes, and New York City's Citi Bike has about 6,000.[1][44][45]

As of July 2013, the systems with the higher market penetration are Velib' in Paris with 1 bike per 97 inhabitants, Vélo'v in Lyon with 1 bike per 121 residents, and Hangzhou in China with 1 per 145. Barcelona's Bicing has 1 per 270, Montreal's Bixi has 1 per 300, London's Santander Cycles has 1 per 984, and New York City's Citi Bike has 1 per 8,336.[10]

A study published in 2015 in the journal Transportation concludes that bike sharing systems can be grouped into behaviourally similar categories based upon their size.[46] Cluster analysis shows that larger systems display greater behavioural heterogeneity amongst their stations, and smaller systems generally have stations which all behave similarly in terms of their daily utilisation patterns.

Bike-sharing systems by country

Dockless bike sharing was around in the UK during the early 20th century in a town called Barton-on-Humber. The companies Falcon, Coventry Eagle and Elswick Hopper has massive factories there and the companies also operated many sub businesses around town. Employees and their spouses could ride shared bikes home or anywhere they wanted as long as they left them at a relevant location.



Initially, a number of traditional (third generation) docked public bike systems operated by local municipal governments opened across China, with the largest ones being in Wuhan and Hangzhou. The first was introduced in Beijing in 2007. However, third generation bike sharing is not considered successful for the majority cities in China. Bike sharing in Beijing virtually stopped and it also has encountered difficulties in Shanghai and Wuhan.[47]

In 2014, students from Peking University created a company called ofo and initialize the fourth generation bike sharing system in their campus. In 2017, a number of private competing app-based dockless bike-sharing programs have started to appear in numerous cities across China. The two largest dockless operators are Mobike and Ofo, others include Bluegogo and Xiaoming.[48][49] Many Chinese cities have experienced massive growth in the number and use these dockless bikeshare programs, clogging sidewalks around major commercial hubs and subway stations with parked bikes.[50] Given the speed of growth with these services, local governments did not have any regulations or planning to accommodate these systems.[51] However the Chinese government encourages the development of dockless bikes to reduce urban pollution. Early studies in Beijing and Shanghai have linked the massive increase of dockless bike shares to the decrease in the number of private automobile trips that are less than five kilometres.[52] In Guangzhou, the arrival of dockless bike shares had a positive impact in the growth of cycling modeshare.[53] The Transport Commission of Shenzhen noted a 10% decrease in private car trips after the introduction of dockless bike shares.[43]

Ofo bikes randomly parked on the pavement (sidewalk) in Beijing

In March 2017, Beijing saw over 200,000 dockless shared bikes from various companies entered service. Near the end of 2017 it has grown to 2.35 million for-hire bikes from 15 companies.[8] The bikes are accessible via an app, and cost 1 RMB per hour plus a refundable damage deposit of 299 RMB. This is on top of the existing municipal run dock based bike network with 86,000 bikes. The Beijing municipal government has pledged to improve management and parking availability in response to the rapidly growing fleets of dockless bikes shares.[54] Beijing cycling mode share increased from 5.5% to 11.6% after the arrival of these dockless bike systems.[55]


The Guangzhou BRT has a bike share program integrated around its BRT stations. According to the local government, in 2017, Guangzhou has a fleet of over 700,000 bikes in various public and private bike share programs. On average 4 million trips each day were made using share bikes.[56] The local government is reviewing traffic management strategies and road design standards to accommodate the increase in cycling traffic.[57][58]


Starting from around the beginning of 2017, Haikou, the capital of Hainan province, experienced a massive increase in the number of dockless bikes by Ofo, Mobike, and Quick To which and cost 2 RMB per hour. The fourth is the Haikou Public Bike System which is a traditional municipal run docked system.


Before the arrival of private dockless systems, Hangzhou was the largest bike share system in the world until it was overtaken by Wuhan. In 2011, the system had 2,050 bike-share stations with a fleet of over 50,000 bikes and serving 240,000 trips per day.[59] By 2015, it was expanded to over 84,000 bikes and 3,354 stations.[60]

Bikes from various bike-share companies in Shanghai

The Shanghai Bike Authority estimated that there are 280,000 shared bikes in Shanghai by March 2017, with a projected increase of 220,000 bikes by June.[61] In March 2017, the government in Shanghai is requesting a temporary ban on the introduction of new private "dockless" shared bikes. [62] Shanghai has prepared new regulations that will restrict rider ages to between 12 and 70 and bikes in service for more than three years in a row must be permanently removed.[63] Mobike alone operates 100,000 bikes in Shanghai and has claimed to have made Shanghai into the city with the world's largest bike share network.[64]


Wenzhou has multiple bike share programs serving different districts of the city. The first one opened in 2012 serving Lucheng District with about 5,000 bikes and 180 stations.[65] Next year, a bike share with 2,200 bikes and 66 stations opened in Longwan District. At the same time, a separate bike share program with 1,040 bikes and 32 stations opened in Ouhai District. The latter of the two is being expanded to 3,250 bikes and 109 stations.[66] According to local government records, more than 20,000 dockless bikes from various private bike share companies have entered service in Wenzhou recently.[67]



Mumbai operates two schemes,[68] and the Ministry of Urban Development is preparing to launch a 10-city public bike scheme as part of its "Mission for Sustainable Habitat".[69]


MyByk cycle sharing program in Ahmedabad started with eight stations within the city in 2013. Subscribers can keep bicycles as long as required without having to return them to the stations.[70][71]

Mysuru (Mysore)

Mysore is the first Indian city to initiate cycle sharing in 2009[72] with 28 locations as of 2009 and 52 planned locations.[73][74]

New Delhi

The Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) launched the first software based ‘Public Bicycle Sharing scheme (PBS)’ as per which commuters can rent cycles from a residential area and travel to the nearest Metro station and then again rent a cycle from a departing Metro station to the nearby localities.[75]


One of the bicycle renting system has been initiated by PedalSaddle in Pune providing cycles on rent for cost cheaper than public transportation.[76] Pune has India's first and biggest bicycle mall ever with a total investment of Rs 5 crore.[77] In January 2018, One of China’s leading bicycle-sharing companies Ofo launched its dockless bicycle-sharing services in Pune.[78] In 2017, ENPRO Industries, Pune took the initiative of promoting cycle to work.[79]

The trend is catching on in some other cities including Rajkot,[80] Bhubaneswar.[81] and Vadodara (Baroda)[82]


Old defunct (2000 - 2010) Helsinki city bikes
BikeMi, Milan, Italy


Following earlier bike-sharing systems, Denmark introduced the first next generation bike-sharing system in 1991 in Farsø.[83] This small-scale scheme paved the way for the Copenhagen's ByCyklen programme, which was introduced in 1995 and was the first large-scale urban bike-sharing programme to feature specially designed bicycles with parts which could not be used on other bikes. Riders paid a refundable deposit at one of 110 special locking bike stands, and the riders then had unlimited use of the bike within a specified 'city bike zone'.[84] The fine for not returning a bicycle or leaving the bike-sharing zone was strictly enforced by the police. The founders hoped to completely finance the programme by selling advertising space on the bicycles. This funding source quickly proved to be insufficient, and the city of Copenhagen took over the administration of the programme, funding most of the programme costs through appropriations from city revenues. Since it was free to the user, there is no return on the capital invested by the municipality, and a considerable amount of public funds was constantly used to keep the system in service. In 2013 a new version was expected to be introduced but the municipality of Copenhagen temporarily withdrew its support and there were no free bicycles for most of 2013.[85][86][87] Copenhagen municipality changed its mind and a new version was introduced in late 2013.[88]


In 1974 the French city of La Rochelle launched a free bike-sharing programme, Vélos Jaunes (Yellow Bikes), featuring unisex bicycles which were free to take and use. In terms of public usage and acceptance, it is regarded today as one of the first truly successful bike-sharing programmes. The programme continues today, albeit in modified form (rental charges apply after the first two hours, and personal identification is required for all bike rentals).


Since September 2016, BKK and MOL operates BuBi in Budapest with over 100 stations.


BikeMi is a public bicycle sharing system in Milan, Italy. It was launched on 8 December 2008 and is contracted to and operated by Clear Channel on the basis of its SmartBike system.[89] The scheme encompasses 4,650 bicycles (including 1,000 electric bicycles and bikes for children)[90] and 280 stations.[91]


In 1965, the group Provo painted fifty bicycles white and scattered them unlocked in downtown Amsterdam for everyone to use freely.[1][9] The bicycles were both taken by people, and impounded by the authorities, as a city ordinance forbade leaving unlocked bikes in public places.[92][93]

In September 1997, a pilot project for a public share system, based on the UK's Grippa™ racks (see below) was established in Rotterdam, for use by commuters, but it was terminated the following year due to poorly functioning of the electronic bike racks.[94]

United Kingdom

In 1993, a Green Bike Scheme bike sharing programme was initiated in Cambridge, United Kingdom, using a fleet of some 300 bicycles. The overwhelming majority of the fleet were stolen or missing within a year of the programme's introduction, and the Green Bike Scheme was abandoned.[95]

In an attempt to overcome losses from theft, the next innovation adopted by bike sharing programmes was the use of so-called 'smart technology'. One of the first 'smart bike' programmes was the Grippa™ bike storage rack system used in Portsmouth's Bikeabout scheme.[96][97][94] The Bikeabout scheme was launched in October 1995 by the University of Portsmouth, UK as part of its Green Transport Plan in an effort to cut car travel by staff and students between campus sites.[97] Funded in part by the EU's ENTRANCE[98] programme, the Bikeabout scheme was a "smart card" fully automated system.[97][94][99] For a small fee, users were issued 'smart cards' with magnetic stripes to be swiped through an electronic card reader at a covered 'bike store' kiosk, unlocking the bike from its storage rack.[97] CCTV camera surveillance was installed at all bike stations in an effort to limit vandalism.[97] Upon arriving at the destination station, the smart card was used to open a cycle rack and record the bike's safe return.[97] A charge was automatically registered on the user's card if the bike was returned with damage or if the time exceeded the three-hour maximum.[97] Implemented with an original budget of approximately £200,000, the Portsmouth Bikeabout scheme was never very successful in terms of rider usage,[a] in part due to the limited number of bike kiosks and hours of operation.[97][99] Seasonal weather restrictions and concerns over unjustified charges for bike damage also imposed barriers to usage.[97] The Bikeabout program was discontinued by the University in 1998 in favour of expanded minibus service; the total costs of the Bikeabout programme were never disclosed.[100][101]

North America


Canada's largest bike share system is the BIXI Montréal system. The system was developed by PBSC Urban Solutions. Started in May 2009, it has expanded to over 5000 bicycles at 450 stations.[102] The Bixi system was implemented in June 2009 in Ottawa/Gatineau as Capital Bixi, and in May 2011 in Toronto as Bixi Toronto.

BIXI Montreal, Quebec, Canada

From 2001 to 2006, BikeShare, operated by the Community Bicycle Network (CBN) in Toronto, was for a time the most popular community bicycle sharing program in North America. BikeShare was intended to overcome some of the theft issues by requiring yearly memberships to sign out any of the 150 refurbished yellow bikes locked up at 16 hubs throughout central Toronto. At its height, over 400 members could sign out a bike from any hub for up to three days. The hubs were located at stores, cafes and community centres where the staff would volunteer their time to sign bikes out and in.[103] Despite steadily increasing administrative, implementation, and maintenance costs, CBN could only charge users around 20 percent of actual costs, as users were unlikely to spend more than $50 per year for a membership. Without sufficient funds in the form of private and government grants, CBN was forced to discontinue BikeShare in 2006.[104]

From 2005 to 2008, a largely unregulated bike sharing program was operated by the Peoples' Pedal organisation in Edmonton, Alberta. The program suffered from high theft and vandalism rates, with 95% of the bikes that had been placed into service stolen or missing by 2008.[105]

In 2016, Vancouver has installed a bike sharing system, Mobi (bike share), operated by CycleHop Corp. (Smoove system), starting at 1000 bikes in June 2016, 1500 at the end of the summer, 2500 in 2017.[106]

Costa Rica

Cartago east of San José, Costa Rica started a bikeshare program.[107]


EcoBici bike sharing system in Mexico City.
EcoBici bicycles in Mexico City

Mexico City: EcoBici is one of the world's largest programs, with 452 stations covering a 35-square-kilometre (14 sq mi) area.[108]

Guadalajara: In December 2014, the government of the State of Jalisco implemented a bicycle sharing system called MiBici with 86 stations and 860 bicycles.[109] As of October 2016, it has 236 stations with 2 thousand bicycles.[110] This system uses the technology and the hardware of PBSC.[111]

United States

Launched in 2013, Divvy is the bike sharing program for Chicago and the largest in North America.
Capital Bikeshare was launched in Washington, D.C. and Arlington County, Virginia in 2010.
Solar powered Boulder B-cycle station with double sided docks. The system was launched in April 2010.
Citi Bike opened in New York City in May 2013.
The Bay Area Bike Share system began operating in the San Francisco Bay Area in August 2013.
Social Bicycles, in Hoboken, New Jersey.
Portland, Oregon

One of the first community bicycle projects in the United States was started in Portland, Oregon in 1994 by civic and environmental activists Tom O'Keefe, Joe Keating and Steve Gunther. It took the approach of simply releasing a number of bicycles to the streets for unrestricted use. While Portland's Yellow Bike Project was successful in terms of publicity, it proved unsustainable due to theft and vandalism of the bicycles. The Yellow Bike Project was eventually terminated, and replaced with the Create A Commuter (CAC) program, which provides free secondhand bicycles to certain preselected low-income and disadvantaged people who need a bicycle to get to work or attend job training courses,[112] and the 2016 Biketown system.

Tucson, Arizona

In 1996, a pilot bicycle share project known as the Orange Bike Project was organised in Tucson, Arizona by Bootstraps to Share, a homeless advocacy organisation inspired by the Bikes Not Bombs movement.[113] Using funds from a taxpayer-funded government grant to obtain, recondition, and maintain 30 bicycles, project organisers announced plans to station the bicycles in downtown Tucson and areas adjacent to the University of Arizona.[113] The publicly shared bicycles, painted bright orange by Earl Scheib to identify them, were primarily intended for use by the homeless or those without means of affordable transportation.[113] The initial 30 bicycles placed into service for the Orange Bike Project were all stolen within a few weeks.[114] A total of 80 bicycles were eventually used in the Orange Bike Project, all of which were either stolen or vandalised beyond repair.[114] In one case, an Orange Bike Project bicycle was thrown in front of a freight train, in others, bikes were found with major frame damage consistent with deliberate vandalism.[114] The program was terminated after only five months of operation.[113][114]

Madison, Wisconsin

In 1996, Madison, Wisconsin, instituted its Red Bikes Project, a public bike sharing program. These red-painted bicycles were available for the use of the general public, primarily in the student areas of State Street between the University of Wisconsin campus and the Wisconsin State Capitol. Initially, the only rule regarding the use of a Red Bikes Project bicycle was that it was required to remain outside and unlocked, and thus available for any passerby. After a surge in bicycle thefts and vandalism, the program was modified to require a valid credit card and $80 in security deposits for both the bicycle and the now-mandatory bicycle lock.[115] The program is now only available seasonally, from spring (when all snow has melted) to 30 November.[116]

Boston, Massachusetts

In 2007, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino and Director of Bicycle Programs, Nicole Freedman, decided to bring bike sharing to the Boston area. The Metropolitan Area Planning Council, the regional planning agency for the metro-Boston region of 101 cities and towns, joined the effort. Brookline, Cambridge, and Somerville also participated. In 2011, the metropolitan area of Boston launched its 60-station, 600-bike Hubway system, the contract to operate was awarded to Alta Bicycle Share and the equipment provider was PBSC Urban Solutions. Bicycle-sharing was an immediate success, recording 100,000 station-to-station rides in its first two and a half months. After recording 140,000 trips in four months, Boston's European-style bicycle-sharing system expanded outside city limits, planting stations across Cambridge, Somerville, and Brookline. Hubway has over 100 stations throughout the Greater Boston area.

Bikes Belong (Dem/Rep Conventions), 2008

In 2007, Bikes Belong, an advocacy group financed by major bicycle manufacturers, worked with city officials, local advocates, and the healthcare firm Humana to bring bikesharing to the Republican and Democratic 2008 conventions. Called "Freewheelin!" the program offered 1,000 bicycles at 12 stations throughout the downtowns of the host cities, Denver and Minneapolis/St. Paul, over the five days of each convention. Bikes Belong's stated goal was to provide a proof-of-concept that large-scale bicycle sharing that was exploding in European cities could work in U.S. cities and provide a valuable addition to the transportation mix. The program was popular among conventioneers, and helped the city of Denver to create a narrative around the "green" attributes of the convention. Both Denver and Minneapolis successfully pursued permanent bikesharing systems, with Denver B-cycle launching on 22 April 2010 as the first of its scale in the U.S., followed by Minneapolis' NiceRide system launching on 10 June 2010.

Washington D.C. & Northern Virginia

In Washington, D.C., a privately operated bike-sharing project known as SmartBike DC opened for service in 2008 for the District of Columbia with 10 stations and 120 bikes. Operated by an advertising firm, Clear Channel Outdoor, the system was funded by advertising revenues from bus shelters on public streets, along with revenues from user membership and usage fees.[117] The program suffered from perennially low membership and rider usage rates, as well as a limited number of bike rental stations.[118] It was officially terminated in January 2011.[119] On 20 September 2010, Arlington County, Virginia and the District of Columbia launched the U.S.'s first public-private partnership bikeshare system, Capital Bikeshare, this time with local government and federal funds and operated by Alta Bicycle Share (now Motivate International) with equipment from Montreal-based PBSC Urban Solutions. This system was the largest bike-share service in the United States until May 2013.[120] The system expanded into Alexandria, Virginia in 2012[121] and Montgomery County, Maryland in 2013. In 2017 four competing dockless systems entered service.[122]

Fort Worth, Texas

On 22 April 2013, Fort Worth Bike Sharing, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, launched a B-cycle system consisting of 300 bikes and 30 stations serving Downtown, Near Southside, and Cultural District in Fort Worth, Texas.[123][124] Fort Worth B-cycle is included in a program called "B-connected" which allows members of over 15 participating B-cycle cities to use their annual memberships for free in other cities.[125]

New York City, New York

Citi Bike opened in New York City in May 2013, with 6,000 bicycles and 330 docking stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. As of June 2013 Citi Bike is the largest bike sharing program in the United States.[126]

Zagster bike sharing station
Zagster bike sharing station on a corporate campus in Burlington, MA
Jersey City, New Jersey

On September 21, 2015, the Citi Bike system that started in New York City in 2013 expanded across the Hudson River to Jersey City, New Jersey, on September 21, 2015, with 35 stations and 350 bikes. One membership works for both Citi Bike New York and Citi Bike Jersey City[127] In July 2016 the system experienced its first wave of expansion with 15 new stations and 150 additional bikes. The system now boasts 50 stations with 500 bicycles throughout Jersey City.[128]

San Francisco Bay Area

In August 2013 the Bay Area Bike Share system began operating in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. The system allocated half of its 700 bicycle fleet in San Francisco, and the rest along the Caltrain corridor in Redwood City, Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose.[129] In 2015, it was announced that the scheme would expand to 7,000 bikes, over 2016-2017, and would include the East Bay Area communities of Berkeley, Emeryville, and Oakland.[130]

Baltimore, Maryland

In May 2014, over 40 bicycles were stolen from Baltimore Recreation and Parks department's bike-share program. The bikes were stolen during the city's Ride Around Reservoir program in Druid Hill Park. The bikes were set up to be lent out when a group of youths took them. The cost of replacing the stolen bikes is devastating to the program, which operates completely on donations.[131][132]

Columbus, Ohio

Columbus, Ohio started a CoGo share system in 2013, owned by the City with the hardware provided by PBSC and operated by Motivate.[133] In summer 2015, Zagster launched a 115 bicycle, 15 station system on the Ohio State University campus. The university decided not to integrate with the city's CoGo system.[134]

Manhattan, Kansas

In 2015, the Green Apple Bikes bike-share system started in Manhattan, Kansas that makes single-speed cruisers available free for 4-hour periods. The program is funded by a consortium of businesses, and bicycles are maintained by volunteers.[135][136]

In June 2017, the city of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin partnered with Zagster to incorporate an adaptive bike-share station into their existing Bublr network. It is thought to be the first adaptive bike-share station in Wisconsin, and the dual partnership is thought to be the first of its kind in the United States.(ride share programs existed in Madison Wisconsin for free)[137]

Dockless bike sharing in the United States

Seattle was the first US city to use dockless bike sharing.[138][139]

Washington, D.C. has four dockless bike-share systems.[140][141][142][143]

The City of San Diego has a contract with Discover (formerly DECO) Bike, a docked bike-share, but in January 2018 the city attorney Mara Elliot opined that the city could still allow dockless bike sharing. Ofo and LimeBike began operating on February 15, 2018.[144] As of March 2018, Ofo, LimeBike, and Mobike offer dockless bike rentals within the city. Limbike and Bird offer electric scooters, and Limbike offers electric pedal-assist bikes as well.[145][146][147][148] However, there have been some concerns in high-pedestrian corridors.[149]

University partnerships in the United States

ofo (Pomona College)

ofo offers a partnership program with universities to provide sustainable campus transportation intended to "[help] build a sense of community in students, and [save] them money at the same time."[150] On February 21, 2018, ofo and Pomona College in Claremont, California launched the first college pilot program in California.[151] The collaboration will benefit not only the Pomona College community, but also the other Claremont Colleges in the Claremont Consortium.


Docked systems

Melbourne Bike Share (MBS), the first municipal bicycle share system in Australia, was launched in Melbourne in June 2010. It started with 10 stations. Usage has been lower than expected and has required ongoing public subsidy. Take-up has been affected by the location of docking stations and the legal requirement for riders wear helmets, which are not provided with the bikes. Ridership doubled when $5 helmets were offered for sale from vending machines. Currently the MBS uses 500 cycles at about 50 stations around Melbourne's central business district.[152]

The Brisbane CityCycle, operated by JCDecaux, started on 1 September 2010 and has grown to include 2000 bikes in 150 stations.[152][153] Its operation has depended on public subsidy. Initially, helmets were not provided with the bikes, but this was later changed. After only achieving 80,000 trips in its first twelve months[citation needed], this increased to 522,388 in the 2016-17 financial year.[154]

Dockless Systems

In 2017 dockless systems were launched in a number of Australia cities.

  • oBike has placed 1,000 bikes since July 2017.[155]
  • Reddy Go started with 1,500 bikes, also in July 2017, and has expanded to over 2,000 bikes.[155]
  • Ofo launched with 600 bikes in October 2017.[156]
  • Mobike distributed up to 500 bikes in November 2017.[157]
  • oBike placed 1,250 bikes in Melbourne since July 2017. There has been notable vandalism of the bikes in the first few months, including being dumping in the Yarra River.[155]
Gold Coast
  • Mobike expects to place 2,000 bikes in the Gold Coast area by January 2018.[158]

Economic Impact

Bike-share programs generate a number of economic externalities, both positive and negative. The positive externalities include reduction of traffic congestion and pollution, while the negative externalities include degradation of urban aesthetic environment and reduction of parking. Furthermore, bike-share programs have pecuniary effects. Some of these economic externalities (e.g. reduced congestion) can be systematically evaluated using empirical data, and therefore may be internalized through government subsidy. On the other hand, "nuisance" externalities (e.g. street and sidewalk clutter) are more subjective and harder to quantify, and may not be able to be internalized.

Graph depicting a market with a positive consumption externality. Curves representing supply, private marginal benefit (demand) and social marginal benefit are shown. Equilibrium and optimal prices and quantities are marked. Deadweight loss is shown as the gray triangle, and the size of the subsidy required to internalize the externality is marked.

Positive Externalities

Reduction of Traffic Congestion

A primary goal of bicycle-sharing systems has been to reduce traffic congestion, particularly in large urban areas. Some empirical evidence indicates that this goal has been achieved to varying degrees in different cities. A 2015 article in Transport Reviews examined bike-share systems in five cities, including Washington, D.C. and Minneapolis. The article found that in D.C., individuals substituted bike-share rides for automobile trips 8 percent of the time, and almost 20 percent of the time in Minneapolis.[160] A separate study on Washington, D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare found that the bike-share program contributed a 2 to 3 percent reduction in traffic congestion within the evaluated neighborhood.[161]

Reduction of Pollution

Not only do bike-share systems intend to reduce traffic congestion, they also aim to reduce air pollution through decreased automobile usage. The study on D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare estimated that the reduction in traffic congestion would be equivalent to roughly $1.28 million in annual benefits, accrued through the reduction in congestion-induced CO2 emissions.[161] A separate study of transportation in Australia estimated that 1.5 kilograms of CO2 equivalent emissions are avoided by an urban resident who travels 5 kilometers by cycling rather than by car during rush hour periods.[162]

Negative Externalities

Reduced Parking

Bike-share programs, especially the earlier systems that required the installation of docking areas along urban streets, encroach upon urban space and reduce the space available for street parking. Reduced parking is therefore a negative externality generated by bike share systems. As bike-share companies have later transitioned into dockless programs, the effect of this externality may have been reduced.

Urban Clutter

In some cities, the large number of dockless bike-share bicycles have created clutter throughout the streets and sidewalks, degrading the urban aesthetic environment and also blocking pedestrian traffic. In particular, the large number of cycles on Chinese city streets have created sections of clogged sidewalks no longer walkable, and piles of illegally parked bicycles.[163]

Bike-share company Mobike's bicycles clutter a sidewalk in 798 Arts District in Beijing, China.

Pecuniary Effects

As bicycle-sharing systems continue to grow and provide an affordable alternative for commuters, the relatively low price of these services may induce competitors to offer lower prices. For instance, municipal public transit organizations may lower prices for buses or subways to continue to compete with bike-share systems. Pecuniary effects may even extend to bicycle manufacturers and retailers, where these producers might reduce prices of bicycles and other complementary goods (e.g. helmets, lights). However, empirical research is needed to test these hypotheses.

Internalization of Externalities

Public-Private Partnerships

In public economics, there is a role for government intervention in a market if market failures exist, or in the case of redistribution. As several studies have found, bike-share programs appear to produce net positive externalities in reduced traffic congestion and pollution, for example.[164][161] The bike-sharing market does not produce at the social optimum, justifying the need for government intervention in the form of a subsidy for the provision of this good in order to internalize the positive externality. Many cities have adopted public-private partnerships to provide bike-shares, such as in Washington, D.C. with Capital Bikeshares.[121] These partially government-funded programs may serve to better provide the good of bike-shares.

Dangers of Over-Supply

Many bike-share companies and public-private partnerships aim to supply shared bicycles as a public good. In order for bike-shares to be a public good, they must be both non-excludable and non-rival. Numerous bike-share programs already offer their services partly for free or at least at very low prices, therefore nearing the non-excludable requirement.[84] However, in order to achieve the non-rival requirement, shared bicycles must be supplied at a certain density within an urban area. There are numerous challenges with attaining non-rivalry, for instance, redistribution of bicycles from low-demand regions to regions with high-demand. Mobike, a China-based company, is attempting to solve this problem by paying their users to ride their bikes from low-demand areas to high-demand areas.[165] Other companies such as OBike have introduced a points system to penalize negative behavior, namely, illegal parking of shared bicycles.[166] Economists speculate that a combination of efficient pricing with well-designed regulatory policies could significantly mitigate problems of over-supply and clutter.[167]

Health Impacts

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health reports observing[164] an increase in cycling and health benefits where bicycle sharing systems are run. In the United States, bikesharing programs have proliferated in recent years, but collision and injury rates for bikesharing are lower than previously computed rates for personal bicycling; at least two people have been killed while using a bike share scheme.[168][169][170]

There is also considerable evidence that bike-share programs must be adopted in tandem with city infrastructure, namely, the creation of bike lanes. A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Public Health found that Toronto’s cyclists were 30-50% more likely to be involved in an accident on major roads without cycle lanes than on those with.[171]


Despite their theoretical and observed benefits, bike-share programs have come under attack as their presence has grown throughout the world. Much of this criticism has focused on the use of public funding - concerned critics posit that the use of tax dollars for bike-share programs should instead be diverted towards building or maintaining roads and other services that more residents use on a daily basis.[172] However, this argument relies on a faulty assumption that taxpayer money is a significant source of bike-share funding. An analysis by People for Bikes, an organization that advocates for new and safe bike infrastructure, found that public investment in Salt Lake City’s Greenbike and Denver's B-Cycle programs was significantly less than traditional public transit (e.g. bus or rail) in those same cities, on a per-trip basis. Both Greenbike and B-Cycle's publicly funded subsidies amount to 10 percent or less of the total cost of one trip.[173] In contrast, Salt Lake City's’s bus and rail system (UTA) relies on 80 percent public funding for a single trip.[173]

Other critics claim that bike-share programs fail to reach more low-income communities.[174] Some efforts have attempted to address this issue, such as New York City's Citi Bike's discounted membership program, which is aimed at increasing ridership among low-income residents. However, around 80 percent of study respondents reported that they had no knowledge of the program's discount.[174]

List of bike sharing systems

See also


  1. ^ The Portsmouth Bikeabout programme never exceeded 500 users at any time during its operational existence.


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