Bike-Sharing: Yea or Nay?

Photo: Rcsmit

I have to say, I was somewhat surprised to see the negative comments under our post about the new B-Cycle bike-sharing system that debuted today in Denver. I was also surprised to see the negative comments regarding bike-sharing in general. I’d like to know if our readers view bike-sharing as a waste of money, or whether they think it can be a viable addition to public transportation systems.

Do you view bike-sharing as a viable addition to our public transportation systems?

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48 Responses to “Bike-Sharing: Yea or Nay?”

  • Jim says:

    I’d like to see the funds go to bicycling infrastructure, which is semi-permanent. Historically bike-share programs have petered out due to vandalism, neglect, theft and lack of continuing upkeep, political will being what it is. Additionally, it can been quite inexpensive to purchase and maintain one’s own bike.

  • Mike Shoup says:

    Something to note about Denver’s bike sharing system:
    None of it is publicly funded. Apart from the city providing space in public places, the entire operation is funded privately.

  • Ken says:

    So, I’m one of those brave souls who voted “no.” As a bit of background, I commute by bike every day, regularly bike to grocery stores and restaurants and live in one of the most bike friendly cities in the US (Portland, OR). Yet, even for me I find it sometimes hard to get myself on the bike. When I am trying to decide whether to get on the bike and go, I am thinking these things:

    1. Do I have my gear (really, this is a helmet, lights and a lock)?
    2. Do I know the route?
    3. Are their hills?
    4. Do I know where parking is?
    5. Are there bike lanes on the route?
    6. How bad is the traffic going to be?

    Beyond this, I see additional questions come to mind when inexperienced bike riders contemplate bike share:
    1. How close is the kiosk from my starting point?
    2. How close is the kiosk to my destination?
    3. Am I in good enough shape for this?
    4. Am I wearing the right cloths (Certainly, there is no need for lycra, but heels and short skirts for the ladies might be an issue)
    5. How much am I going to sweat?
    6. How do I sign up for this?
    7. How do I pay for this?
    8. Is my hair going to get messed up?
    9. How comfortable is the bike?
    10. Is the bike in good working order?

    From a pure marketing standpoint, there are a lot of issues to overcome to get people on the bike shares. In addition, I believe there are more hurdles to adoption of bike shares than getting people to buy their own bikes.

    In the end, all bike programs are fighting for limited resources and I think bike boulevards, bike lanes, and especially cycle tracks have the best chance of “moving the needle” with regards to bike adoption.

  • Fergie348 says:

    I’d agree with Jim above in that bicycle sharing programs are marginal in their impact on cycling’s percentage of trips taken.

    Setting aside the problems inherent in bike sharing that Jim lists, we have to ask ourselves if it’s *access to bicycles* that keeps people from using bicycles instead of cars, public transit or other methods of getting from point a to point b. I would argue that infrastructure (or lack of it specifically for bikes) and cultural attitudes play a much bigger role in marginalizing cycling as a viable tranportation alternative in most people’s minds.

    If having bicycles easily available in metro areas through bike sharing programs helps change the cultural assumptions that Americans seem to hold about bikes (toys, sporting goods for yuppies, etc.) then those programs will be a success even if no one actually uses the darned things.

  • Colin says:

    Ditto what Ken says. Bike share programs have more issues than benefits. And really who is the target of this? Normal bike rental shops are better options for tourists. And is anyone really going to be a long time bike sharer rather than just buy a bike? Car sharing makes sense as they are pricer and harder to park, but bikes?

  • Lovely Bicycle! says:

    In theory, bike share is a wonderful thing, but in practice I have my reservations.

    One of my reservations has to do with wastefulness. People tend not to love and care for things that don’t belong to them. As a result, the bikeshare bikes – even in areas where the programme is considered successful – are replaced so frequently, that it would almost be more worthwhile to give everyone a voucher for their own personal bike, in a brand of their choice within reason. At least this way, each person will be more likely to cherish their bike, and the bikeshare programme will not result in yearly heaps of new scrap metal.

    My second main reservation, is that these programmes more often than not benefit an outside corporation that outsources the bikes, and not a local business. See this post by Mike Flanigan for some thoughts regarding this issue.

    Finally, in most of the cities I have been in that offer bike share, my impression is that inadequate provisions have been made for these bikes to be useful for “real life stuff” such as placing one’s briefcase/ work bag in the basket (the baskets tend to be too small) and accommodating shopping loads. To me, this suggests that the bikes are mostly for tourists, and not for residents of the city – which in many ways seems to defeat the purpose.

    There are other issues as well, but those are my main concerns. I will also say that I find this topic very difficult to discuss, as some people tend to get verbally abusive when they perceive others as “against bike share”. On my website, I attempted to analyse what works and does not work for me about the bike share in Vienna, and this ended up being the only post in the history of my blog where I’ve actually removed comments from some readers due to use of profanity or abusive language. Still, in my view critique is necessary in order to move forward.

  • thomas says:

    Studies tell us that the main thing preventing people from riding bikes is the fear of riding in traffic. The most effective thing that a city could do to get people riding bikes is to get rid of cars or at least control them better. I don’t think that bikesharing is the answer but i do think that it’s a great concept. This isn’t the first bikeshare to be used in Denver. During the Democratic National Convention a large fleet of bikes were available to use around the city. It was highly successful. Of course the convention wasn’t normal life. There are a lot of challenges in order for a bikeshare to succeed. The first challenge is getting people to use the system. One of things that i like about the bikeshare is that it will get people on bikes who haven’t ridden in years. Those people will begin to see the city like I do. They’ll understand what it’s like to ride in traffic. They’ll remember how great it is to ride a bike.

  • workingdog says:

    I say no, not because I don’t wish it to be true, but because I know how I feel about my own participation in car sharing. I don’t particularly like it. It saves me a lot of money and it’s not too inconvenient, but I’d really rather own my own car. It just feels better to me.

  • patrick says:

    i think ken has a good point. also, a bike share would have 2 types of riders that are problematic. one is the rider that doesn’t ride ever and doesn’t really feel comfortable so they ride on the sidewalk, ride the wrong way down a one way, (amateur hour without the learning curve that comes with ownership and practice). the second type is the commuter who depends on the share program and finds an empty port.
    then i have to ask myself, who is it for? passive travelers who dont care either way if there’s a bike available or not? and here i thought the point was to make cycling more than just sport or banal activity.

  • Shane Glassey says:

    I have used it in Paris and Tolouse, both were great systems and excellent ways to get around the cities. It was cost efective and seemed to be very well maintained and easy to use.

  • Brent says:

    I found a similar bicycle service useful on a trip to Taipei last October. I didn’t have to bother locating a rental agency or worry about theft, damage, and the like. My only complaint, really, came from the size: the bicycle was designed for smaller people, despite its adjustable seat.

    I would tend to support them. They’re a low-cost way for cities to provide “public transportation,” and they’re a low-cost way for people to experiment with integrating bicycles into their lives. Too, from what I understand from the Paris experience, people tend to upgrade to their own bicycles after using the service a few times.

  • KM says:

    I voted yes, but the biggest down fall I see is the maintenance of the bikes. The ones in Tulsa’s bike share are in rough shape. And they’re heavy, heavy, too-high-of-a-gear cruisers. If I lived there I might volunteer to work on ‘em, but I only visit there.

  • jamesmallon says:

    It works for Montreal. It gets more people on bikes, which makes the road safer for cyclists, and creates a true ‘Critical Mass’, not a once a month self-righteous antagonism. Bike lanes only make cycling safer in perception, not reality. Finally, my bikes are too expensive for errands in Toronto, as everything gets stolen. I’d use bike share for errands: let them steal the rental, after I have returned it to a dock.

  • Jasen says:

    I guess I would need to ride one of these eye sores to be fully convinced.

    I try and imagine various ‘average’ people that I know in my life (co-workers, my parents, neighbors..etc) who don’t already ride a bicycle on a regular basis walking by a stand of these bikes and wonder if they would be interested in them? Would my Mom ride that thing around town? I don’t think so.

    My current vote is a ‘No’


  • sabinna says:

    I think an extra button “depends” would be good here. Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan has had a bike sharing system for over a year or so now. This has been introduced after the city was connected to the north (and everything) in between by a High Speed Rail system and a local, brand new, subway system, was inaugurated. Visitors can get around the city’s attractions via subway, and between stations and surrounding areas on the bikes made available. It’s a sound business model, that takes a global view of the bike plan in context. A good business model makes a lot of difference. Compare Paris’s success with the Belgians’ experiment.

  • Ted says:

    Interesting conincidence.
    I just a couple of hours ago sent an email to the Boston Tourism board to find out if Boston’s bike share will be running when I have a week’s vacation there in May. It doesn’t look promising from what I can find on the web.
    As a tourist/vacationer I like the idea of bike share. My wife’s idea of a vacation is to sleep late. I on the other hand like to get up early and get out and about. I like the idea of being able to get up, rent a bike for an hour or so and then go back and do family things.

  • Fortis says:

    The bike share works great in Paris. I’m sure I won’t be popular by saying this, but all you to ride a bike is a bike. You don’t need special clothes, special safety equipment, or anything else. In Paris if you want to go 10 blocks, you grab one of these bikes and go; easy. Biking is not risky, let’s stop acting like it is, then maybe people will actually get on them.

  • Alan says:

    I’d love to have a bike sharing program in my hometown of Sacramento. Lack of secure bike parking is a real problem in the city center, particularly if you have a nice bike. I’d love to be able to take a train downtown, pick up a bike at the train station, ride it across town to a show or dinner, drop it off, then grab another for the trip home later in the evening, all without having to worry about leaving a nice bike outdoors at night and fussing with taking it on the train.


  • Sziszi says:

    I think it’s sort of interesting all of the “most people” presumptions going on here. I bet the cities installing these programs have done a bit of market research and crafted initial answers to all the questions above about how these are going to work.

    I don’t think we everyday-cyclists are their target market so we are probably not viewing this question through the right lens. We all know people who own bicycles which they take out for the ocassional or even regular recreational ride on seperated paths or quiet residential areas. There are millions of these sorts of cyclists — comfortable riding but not (yet) commuting, not (yet) riding in the city. How many of them will see these as an easy-to-ride, convenient alternative for going a short distance for a meeting or lunch or run an errand? A mile at lunch time? Drinks 10 blocks away? For someplace a bit further than you want to walk, one of these would be a great alternative to a taxi, public transport or driving your own car.

  • Albert says:

    I’m a veteran bike commuter, and have been living in Paris for 10 years. Vélib’ did more than anything else, including building many kilometers of bike lanes, to change the bike culture of Paris. It has become a part of the fabric of the city. I bought a subscription thinking I would lend it to visitors, only to find I used it a lot myself. And now, there are many more riders on their own bikes who became converts, supporting a thriving number of local bike shops – probably double the number there were before.
    I don’t know if it will translate to American cities that are less dense, with a less dense network of bike sharing stations – but we can hope!

  • Joseph E says:

    I’m surpised at the number of “No” votes and the vocal negative comments.

    Guys, you and I are basically freaks. We care enough about bikes to read this blog, and we bike to work or whatever, even though only abouy 1% of people do this in the USA, and most of those biking to work are poor students or immigrants. We are NOT a representative population.

    Bike sharing works in cities around the world, from Quebec to Japan to Spain to Mexico, because it only takes 1% of the people in a city signing up for the program to make it a huge success. Many people who currently take a slow, infrequent, unreliable bus for part of their trip can instead get a bike when they get off the train. Tourists don’t have to hunt for a bike rental shop, or worry about their rental bike getting stolen if they actually want to stop somewhere. People who have no idea how to buy a bike or what sort to get can try these bikes out and find out if it works for them.

    I recently decided to try riding my bike to work, after using a bus/rain combo for a few months, and it took weeks of research to figure out what sort of bike to buy, and find anything worth buying in my (low) price range. Local bike shops weren’t much help; they wanted to sell road or mountain bikes, maybe a beach cruiser. Then, my bike was stolen a month later. If I wasn’t committed to it, I might have given up.

    If there were a bike sharing program in Long Beach, I could have tried borrowing a bike just when I needed it, before putting down cash on a bike that might be stolen, or end up sitting in the apartment unused. If bike share was available all over Los Angeles, I could take the train somewhere and then ride the rest of the way instead of taking a slow or infrequent bus, without shoehorning my own bike onto the train. I could invite my friends on a ride, and they wouldn’t need to buy a bike or haul one around; just sign up for the bike share program.

    Sure, maybe 90% of people in your city will never touch one of these bikes. But imagine how things would change if just 10% of people started looking at bikes as a convenient method of transportation, as part of the public transit system, rather than a sport or toy or eccentric hobby.

    If these systems are done right, with hundreds of bike stations and thousands of bikes from a mid-sized city, well-integraded with the transit system and easy to use, they will make a big difference.

  • townmouse says:

    I can’t wait for London’s bike share scheme to get going. As a former Londoner and a regular cyclist, I hate going back to London and seeing everyone zipping past me on bikes while I’m stuck on two feet. I would probably be a bit more sceptical were I still living in London but the one person these schemes are not designed for is the existing local cyclist (unless their bike’s just been stolen). They’re for the non cyclists and for the visitors and I really hope they work Everyone says the London bikes will end up in the Thames but I don’t think Paris or Dublin are substantially more civilised or ordered than London is, and they seem to have managed. Plus they do seem to kick start cycling among the non-cyclists which is what is needed in order to build up enough momentum to put better infrastructure in place. Roll on bike share schemes

  • brad says:

    As someone who lives in Montreal, which as part of Québec has the highest number of bicycles per capita in North America, I was very skeptical that the Bixi bike-sharing system would be popular. Boy was I wrong! Of course a lot of users are tourists, which makes sense, but an awful lot of people on Bixis are commuters (you see a lot of folks in suits and ties) and people who live in apartments where there’s no place to store a bike and they’re tired of having their bikes stolen on the street. Bixi was a runaway success in its first year, and I anticipate 2010 will be another banner year for ridership.

  • Graham says:

    I live in a small, low density town and in my case a bike share program would never work out. However, I imagine taking weekend trips to the larger cities (to take in a show, or just to escort the wife for shopping) and the thought of wrestling with traffic or hailing a cab is nowhere near as attractive as snagging a short hop on a rental bike. I’d love to see these spring up in cities all over the place!

  • John_in_NH says:

    I am a firm believer in bike share programs in all forms (just for residents, tourists, individual ownership for a time, whatever) Denver is a college town and many students are unable to bring a bike to campus or could use it to go downtown or to the bars or whatever (i don’t live there, but my campus is similar to all colleges in that way) many don’t have the skills to take care of a bike or the dedication to bring it to the shop every couple months.

    I have used the Paris system and the Montreal system, in fact I prefer to use the Montreal system, rather than the subway (which I also love) and because there are stations at pretty much every subway stop its not a big deal (and its waayy cheaper!!).
    a bike share sometimes is needed to show that there are people on bikes and we need to provide for them. In this country it is not a given to provide for cyclists and we need excuses sometimes to get infrastructure. Montreal already has a good bike culture, and cars are use to them, so anybody with some knowledge of riding a bike is just fine.

    I think sometimes they are not as useful if the city has not created some basic infrastructure (Santander Spain for example) but they are still used.

    more bike share please though :)

  • Eneko says:

    Hi all you there,

    This is Eneko posting from Spain, maybe the cathedral of public shared bike schemes with more than 100 cities with these kind of systems working. It sounds weird but, after 5 years of explosion, people and local governments here starts to suspect that the idea doesn’t work as well as they supposed, and the huge companies managing these “panaceas” have begun to strangle their economies. There is a new published this week that shows the drop of Barcelona’s Bicing last year. You can check this out in the Annual Mobility Report of Barcelona’s city council here:

    I suggest you to check every single dollar spent in this kind of marketing issues. Definitely is not a transport service. This is only the excuse to sell these expensive technologies as a big green public advertising. They could strangle millions of funds for cycling promotion.

    Think about it!

  • Sean in Calgary says:

    I have used to BIXI system in Montreal a few times and found it to be easy to use, the bikes were in very good condition, and it made getting around Montreal very easy – and fun!

    My one point would be this – bike share programs need to be part of a larger, coordinated effort if they are to work long term. Simply dropping a bike share into a city (like DC’s system) is not going to do anything to get people out of cars (and taxis). Bikes lanes need to be in place, maps of the city and locations of the kiosks need to be available too.

  • DavidF says:

    Yesyesyesyes! I was completely converted when I found myself in Brussels on business during a period of great weather. Rather than take cabs everywhere, and given the number of hidden points of interest, I simply used the bike hire scheme to get around.

    It was brilliant, a swipe of my credit card on the machine, and the bike was released. There were stations all over town so whenever I wanted to stop it was simply a matter of plugging the bike back into another docking station. The bikes were also fully equipped with dynamo lights (with sensors), locks and baskets so there were well and truly hop on and ride.

    In general, they were all in a good state of repair and were great for getting around. Yesterday while out in town (London) I noticed one of the first of our scheme points being installed in Soho. Looking forward to seeing how it gets on, I think it will be great!

  • John says:

    I voted yes on this, but it’s a qualified yes. I thnk it depends on a couple things. First, there has to be an overall change in perception towards bikes and their usage. As a previous poster pointed out, cycling in Denver (and virtually all of the U.S. I imagine) is considered more for it’s exercise and recreational value than it’s utilitarian value. This mindset needs to be changed and it’s an ongoing struggle to accomplish. However, if it can be done, then the the ‘yes’ vote becomes more likely.

    Secondly, it needs to be actively pushed and promoted and not allowed to fade into the woodwork. As the first thing becomes more ingrained in our psyche the second item will become less necessary (I think).

    Third, for Denver – it’s gotta quit raining!


  • RDW says:

    Fascinating discussion going on here. I voted yes initially but after reading the comments I’m not sure I’m still of that opinion. Lot’s of good points made on both sides and interesting opinions from those who have experience with bike share systems, especially the comments from Albert and Eneko. I have to wonder if services like Seattle’s Bike Port (which I was just reading about at An Adventure Called Bicycling) might not do more in the long run to promote bike commuting in urban areas. Seems to me that increasing personal bicycle ownership and use might do more long term good for a city (and for cycling in general) than a bike share company, especially if the bike shares are mostly used by tourists.

  • Don says:

    I think bike-sharing enterprises touch several sore spots for regular bike riders: the idea of expensive bikes sitting around not being used, of money being diverted from long-neglected infrastructure projects, the glossing over of all-important bike fit considerations, the introduction of complexity into an inherently simple activity, the absurd limitations of a kiosk, the possibility that someone’s marketing plan is actually interfering with regular riding, and so on. That’s certainly my reaction. It is sad how quickly some things can be implemented, pitched, and allowed to fade while other, smarter, cheaper programs languish for years. As bike riders, we tend to find any waste reprehensible. As we should.

    I just want a place to ride and a place to lock my bike! We had a young but experienced bike rider die along a designated bike lane/city growth plan area in part because implementation was lame to nonexistent. A foot of space and some paint on the asphalt–mere pennies in the scheme of things–and he might have had a chance! What will it take?

  • Miguel Marcos says:

    > I’d like to see the funds go to bicycling infrastructure, which is semi-permanent.

    Bingo! This plus encouraging bike use. The model which should be strived for is Amsterdam or Copenhagen. Plus, it’s healthier for people’s bodies to have bike that are outfiited for them size-wise and purpose-wise. By encouraging people to own their own bikes you’re also promoting local commerce via bike shops and mechanics. Part of the city government’s efforts should also go toward encouraging buildings to accomodate bikes.

    I’ve written elsewhere about bike sharing in Barcelona. The bikes are OK, some of them suck. In my limited experience and via some personal stories I overheard, the locking mechanism can fail either causing a bike to be removed without authorization and the previous rider responsible for the cost or it may not even work in the first place or there might be no open slots for locking, forcing you to go to another bike station to find a slot. When you have your own bike, you just need to find a secure spot to lock it, not a specially designed spot with a peculiar elctronic locking mechanism.

    One of the things that also turned me off was the somewhat frequent co2-spewing trucks that go from bike station to bike station to ensure there’s a proper statistical distribution of bikes across the city as well as to pick up bikes that need repair.

    I’m not enthusiastic about bike sharing. The one sector that benefits greatly from a system like this would be tourists but, ironically, they’re not allowed to use it.

  • Richard says:

    I offer a qualified yes. I think it depends on the city in question. In a city such as Paris or New York, where apartment space is at a premium and bike theft is ridiculously high, it makes sense in lots of ways to outsource some of the risk, expense, and inconvenience of bike ownership to a bike sharing program. I spent about a year in Paris in 2006-7 conducting field research, and mobility around the city was critical. While the Metro and bus systems are fantastic, a bike dramatically changed my experience. However, it wasn’t cheap. A real beater of a used bike will still cost upwards of $150, and it may well be stolen very quickly. Maintenance is also expensive in the city, and any kind of a decent lock (I mean even a cheap cable lock which would cost about $10-20 in the US) is about $50-60 there. To bring a bike inside often means hauling it up six flights of stairs–not an option for most. So for about $50 a year, Velib makes LOTS of sense, even for several years. I can count on one hand the number of times I rode for more than an hour at a stretch (indeed, even on my rattler of a bike, I can make it from the eastern to the western extreme of the city in an hour), so the short limit per ride wouldn’t add up for my purposes. Yet the Velib program didn’t start until July 2007, and I moved back to the US in August–that’s the only reason I had to buy a bike rather than use Velib.

    One interesting point about the Velib system is one of its side effects: bike sales at all levels are up in Paris. The system has accomplished one of its major goals by creating awareness that cycling in the city is a great way to get around. So even as the system has had over 60 million rentals, lots of people are buying bikes as well. Very cool, in my opinion.

    Finally, a word about the Denver bikes. Several of the commentators here have remarked that they’re ugly or strange-looking. But part of this is the one-size-fits-all approach. For the system to work, these bikes need to work for people wearing jackets and ties who want to zip out on a quick errand or commute in the morning. An upright ride, a step-through frame, an effective chain guard: all these are essential in this respect. There is a reason that Dutch bikes look the way they do: they work best that way!

  • Alan says:

    “One interesting point about the Velib system is one of its side effects: bike sales at all levels are up in Paris. The system has accomplished one of its major goals by creating awareness that cycling in the city is a great way to get around. So even as the system has had over 60 million rentals, lots of people are buying bikes as well. Very cool, in my opinion.”

    Yes, absolutely! Plus… it’s impossible to know the exact number, but 60 million rentals has to add up to a very significant number of car trips that were replaced with bike trips.

    “Finally, a word about the Denver bikes. Several of the commentators here have remarked that they’re ugly or strange-looking. But part of this is the one-size-fits-all approach.”

    Agreed! These bikes are not meant to replace an enthusiast’s personal ride; they’re an extension of the public transportation system, and as such, they must be tough, weather resistant, and adaptable. Think of a human-powered alternative to a city bus or light rail train, not a replacement for an enthusiast’s everyday ride.

  • Pamela says:

    I can’t currently imagine bike share coming to Reno NV, but…

    FASCINATING discussion… Thanks all!

  • Ken says:

    Hmmm… I see for a lot of the “yes” voters there is a tendency to point to the success of European cities as an example of why it would work in North America. I think bike sharing has the tendency to introduce more riders to the bike infrastructure that the city has and this may leave a very positive or negative impression on the user. I think back to three different places where I used a bike to run errands and my impressions of each:

    Amsterdam: This experience of riding a bike around the city is fantastic! I will do this again!
    Portland, OR: There is a lot of good infrastructure here, but there are some sketchy intersections around… maybe it’s worth riding again…
    Orange County, CA: I seriously have concerns for my safety. I’m going to think twice before riding again.

    For Amsterdam, setting up bike sharing is almost a no-brainer. For Orange County, they must work on their infrastructure first or else a bike sharing program will just reinforce all of the negative images of riding in that area. Perhaps more important than getting a person to try a bike once, is to ensure that they have a positive enough experience to do it again. Without proper infrastructure, I don’t think these programs are going to get people to come back.

  • sbcommute says:

    @ Joseph E

    I couldn’t agree more. As a newly indoctrinated bike commuter, I am happy to say that i have joined the likes of you self proclaimed freaks. It has changed my life completely for the better.

    Like you, It took me a couple of months to pick out the right bike and endless components so that I could feasibly get rid of my car completely and ride exclusively.

    My thought process went like this:
    If I can only ride my bike once or twice a week then I still need my car. If I keep my car then I still need gas money, insurance, tags. etc. So the big benefit was not there unless I got rid of my car for good. I don’t think many “un-freaks” out there are really going to do this. Or if they do, who is going to spend two months searching for the right bike and spending a small fortune before they have fully committed to the idea?

    If bike sharing gets more people on bikes, be it future bike commuters or some guy in a suit that hasn’t rode a bike in years, then it’s always a yes vote for me. For some folks I thinks it’s easier to shoot down an idea if they can’t see how it might benefit them. So they focus on the various mundane issues that would prevent someone from using things like the bike sharing program. But what gets me excited is – what if it really does work…. more people on bikes….. isn’t that what we all want to see?

  • Eddie says:

    As many here have pointed out there are so many reasons to vote no but they are all trumped by the reason I vote yes – there needs to be a spark. Bike-sharing in appropriate metropolitan areas may well do that. The introduction of bike-sharing programs gains more media attention than any other urban biking news. I try not to look at bike-sharing from the standpoint of a cynical veteran bike commuter. I have to think it may be able to tap the vast of ocean of potential users for whom the availability of biking-sharing might prove to suddenly make sense – maybe only to a few at first, but hopefully more later. Like a young child, urban biking needs nurturing if it is to grow in our car-centric city centers. Bike-sharing may become the catalyst that encourages more bike infrastructure that ultimately benefits all cyclists.

  • Luc says:


    I’m a bike blogger from…France, where bike sharing is pretty developed in a lot of cities
    Any thing bad you can say, hear or imagine about bike sharing program is true.

    It is true that owning and maintaining a bike is neither complex nor expansive
    It’s true that bike sharing systems have to face a lot of vandalism and very selfish behavior… and therefore a pretty high (if not insane) cost.

    And so on..

    But it is also true that in France bike sharing failed under any aspect but one, and this one is by far the most important and makes the whole operation a large success : installing a bike culture.

    10 years back, excepted if you were a ecological extremist with strong suicide tendencies, riding a bike in Paris was not possible, too dangerous.

    Today I ride 40km (2×20) every day in Paris area living from the suburbs on one side of the city and working in a suburb in the opposite side. I can do this rather safely because thanks to the bike sharing program (the one from your photo) a Parisian driver is accustomed to see bikes (even if they park on bike lanes, don’t respect road signs and so on).

    So when judging bike sharing please don’t tale only the basic technical/Financial aspect but take in consideration the social effect, and this social effect is immensely positive.

    Luc (

  • Miguel Marcos says:

    Luc, that’s a fair and very good point, and worth considering.

  • patrick says:

    okay, i voted no, and trash talked a bit, but the comments have convinced me otherwise. it would be great to visit a city and not have to bring along a bike to see it right. and it serves as a gateway mode of transport (folks will “need” to get their own bikes)… and i guess it doesnt really matter if amateur hour takes over. ive been softened. bring on the bike share.

  • mabb says:

    I’m a Denverite, very active in local bike advocacy, and see Bcycle as just one step in many to improve bike culture in Denver. Infrastructure is an area where there have been some improvements and there are more on the way, but we still have a long way to go – especially as you move away from Denver proper and into the burbs. Biking the burbs, off the MUPS, can be a very frightening experience. Hopefully the existance of Bcycle will force more attention to infrastructure.

  • Will says:

    There are all sorts of problems to overcome, but if ZipCars works so well, why can’t this? The question is where to place the bike stands. Second, regardless of where the bike stands are placed, cities are discovering that the demand between any two stations is asymmetric (bikes seem to gravitate to some stations leaving others empty) resulting in “rebalancing” issues. Still, here in NYC parking and locking bikes is such a headache that I would be delighted to have such a system, assuming they could place stands in convenient locations that don’t block sidewalks.

  • Jay says:

    I spent a month in Paris and LOVED Velib. And I only used it twice in that whole time. The reason I didn’t had nothing to do with the program, but had to do with the fact I didn’t know the layout of Paris, so I didn’t know where I was going. And I didn’t fully understand the traffic patterns, exactly where I was supposed to be riding in the street, and so forth.

    If I’d known traffic patterns, and known where the bike lanes were, and where I was going, I would have loved them.

    The reason the system works so well is that there are stations EVERYWHERE, and tons of bikes. DC’s system is different – fewer stations, but you can keep the bikes longer. If you can only keep the bikes for half an hour before you start getting charged, you need to have tons of stations where you can return them easily. You couldn’t go 3 or 4 blocks without running across another station. Awesome.

    I hope they bring that system here to Boston – I’d likely use it every day. Access to a convenient bike, almost free, that I didn’t have to worry about locking up the way I do my own? Totally worth it, even if the bikes were too small for me.

  • Jay says:

    And as far as where to put the bike stands, you just take up one or two parallel parking spots – that’s really all it takes, and that’s a pretty small price to pay.

  • peteathome says:

    My main puzzlement about bike share programs is the economics and convenience factors.
    While I think these are great for visitors to a city – I’ve often wished for such a thing, especially at airports – it seemed unlikely that residents would use them. Yet residents do. I’m not sure why.

    Why wouldn’t a resident just buy a cheap bike and use that? Not only do you have to pay to use the bike share bikes, but the location of the kiosks has to match up with your start and destination. And the bikes don’t seem that great. The only advantage is that you don’t have to worry about the bike getting stolen or vandalized while it’s parked during the day. And this might be a real factor in dense cities where you don’t have any room to keep a bike at home.

    We set up a small bike share in my town that is somewhat different. We took donated bikes and fixed them up. Then any township resident could check out a bike for $25 and keep it for up to a year or switch it with a different bike anytime they want. They can also bring it in any time for servicing. I supported the program and even did some of the mechanics on the donated bikes, but I thought it was just a pie-in-the-sky idea. After all, someone can go down to the local Walmart and buy a cheap bike for $79. We are a moderately affluent town, so the price difference wouldn’t bother most, and many of these people wouldn’t know the difference between a Walmart bike and one we carefully fixed up.

    Yet the program has been doing very well. All I can figure is that it is really convenient – we’re right int he middle of town and people look at the bikes after going to our farmer’s market. they can bike them home. I fthey don’t like the bike they got they can try a different one. And we support them if they have any problems. Flat tires are a real concern to people just starting out. Not only do we fix their flat, we show them how to do it if they want to.

    So I don’t really understand it, but they seem to work.

  • John says:

    Walking back to my office a little while ago I was passed by the first bike-sharing cyclist since the program started. Gotta tell you, I was actually thrilled to see one! Young lady, dressed in business attire with a notebook in the basket heading for, well, somewhere. Cool. Very cool. Now I really hope it works.


  • Doug says:

    I would have to agree with Thomas. The issue is primarily fear (warranted) that is the most significant barrier to increased adoption of the bicycle as a transportation option. I voiced a comment of “negativity” I suppose regarding the Denver B-Cycle program. Not because I hold an adverse view of bicycle sharing programs. Rather, because of Denver’s consistent track record of half ass execution on bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Sure, some people are happy, where they have lucked into a very, very rare circumstance of marked bicycle lanes that correspond to their sub 3 mile commute to work. For the broad majority of the city/county of Denver, the network of bicycle corridors is disjointed, spotty, poorly signed, etc. Recreational riders can have endless fun on paved pathways that parallel highways and open space. For urban riders that actually want to use a bike to commute to work or buy groceries or ride to the pub, beware of highly texting, talking, stop light ignoring motorists.

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