Case Studies

Bike Sharing

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Categories: Connectivity, Health and Wellbeing

By: EcoDistricts

A bike-sharing system is a public active transportation program composed of interconnected stations that exchange bicycles for free (first 30 minutes) or at an affordable rate for short distance trips in urban areas. These programs have been developed as an alternative to motorized transportation to prevent its negative externalities, and also as a response to the increasing need for urban sustainable development. It presents a way to resolve health problems associated with sedentary lifestyles, such as obesity.




  • Reduces travel by car, public transportation and private bikes
  • Improves air quality and climate
  • Reduces vehicle emissions, congestion and fuel use



  • Contributes to neighborhood economy
  • Increases access to jobs, services (health/education), healthy groceries, and recreational/social activities
  • Increases social capital, sense of community and quality of life
  • Improves health of community members by encouraging walking and biking
  • Provides flexible mobility options and supports multimodal transportation
  • Cuts transportation costs for community members
  • Bike-share is a public transit program that is part of an intermodal transportation system, with potential benefits for those with few mobility alternatives.
  • Because accessibility of bicycles is important for the program to succeed, stations located in low-income neighborhoods with information and traffic-safety conditions in languages other than English will increase participation.




A common barrier preventing all residents from bicycling is lack of space to store a bicycle; bike-share programs might overcome this barrier. Cities might not have the capacity to design and implement a bike-share program. Conditions of the built environment might limit the number of locations for bike stations, where bicycles can be rented or returned. Conflicts might arise between city and state governments regarding legal authority over streets and transportation management.



Most of these programs are expensive to operate and do not provide a self-funding mechanism. These programs are often funded by local governments, charitable sources, nonprofit private organizations, private sponsors or public-private partnerships. Transnational advertising companies such as Clear Channel and JCDecaux have funded and administer many of these programs. Sometimes these companies charge cities for the service (as in Mexico City) or run them in exchange for governments’ permission/concession for outdoor commercial advertising.



Programs funded by advertising companies might generate political conflicts due to allowed concessions/permissions or because advertising could be viewed as a source of visual pollution and invasion of the public space. Since cities often rely on their own economic resources to operate these programs, potential political conflicts could result from allocating financial resources for a bike-share program.



This Lyon, France-based program started in 2005. It comprises 4,000 bicycles that can be accessed at and returned to any of 340 stations, most no further than one third of a mile from downtown Lyon.



Advertising companies, NGOs, public-private partnerships, federal and state governments, local governments, bicycling advocate groups and downtown business organizations



In the city of Lyon (as well as in Brussels, Belgium; Paris, France; Seville, Spain; and Dublin, Ireland) the program is funded by the transnational advertising company JCDecaux. Clear Channel funds programs in Stockholm, Sweden; Oslo, Norway; Barcelona, Spain; Perpignan, France; and Zaragoza, Spain. Advertising companies usually select cities that promise financial returns. Funding alternatives include local governments, charitable sources, nonprofit private organizations, federal and state subsidies or public-private partnerships.



The rental operations are fully automated: the stations are on the street and can be accessed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Rentals are made through a digital terminal at the station, by using a credit card to obtain a short-term registration card or by using a yearlong subscription. The first 30 minutes are free.



  • Based on average rider speeds, bicycles are competitive with cars as a means of transportation.
  • Grouping the stations by proximity between origin and destination is a good policy: short-range trips are best for shared bicycles. Closer stations exchange more bicycles than more distant stations do.
  • Main network hubs should be close to train stations, residential zones, campuses, business/commercial and recreational areas, and downtown, where most trips take place.
  • Most trips last 26–34 minutes, with a median of 11 minutes (reflecting the fact that the first 30 minutes are free).
  • Trips are part of an intermodal transportation system. People use bicycles near train stations or buses mainly to commute to and from work: during weekdays people use them in the morning (8 a.m.–9 a.m.), at noon, and in late afternoon (5 p.m.–7 p.m.)—the peak. Weekends, people use them mostly at 5 p.m.
  • In South Korean cities and in Barcelona, Spain, area density (in terms of destinations and population), the number of bikes and stations, and accessibility from origin to destination has a favorable effect on bike-share programs (increases commutes).
  • Australian cities have calculated the following benefits per day of their bike-share program: congestion benefit—$199 (Australian); climate change benefit—$58 (Australian); and physical activity benefit—$3,645 (Australian).
  • A coordinated bicycling policy is an important factor for the success of the program in different cities.
  • Vancouver, BC shows that the built environment predicts bicycle mode: density (balance between residents and employments), land use mix (activity density per square mile), intersection density, proportion of developed land, and proximity to bike trails and bike lanes.
  • Vancouver, BC also shows a negative association between bike use and topographic conditions (hilly pathways), weather (cold and precipitation), and age (people older than 65 bike less).
  • In addition to infrastructure such as bicycle lanes, tracks and racks, the success of bike-share programs depends on planning; infrastructure design; education for bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers; communication; law enforcement; marketing; program evaluation; and providing facilities such as showers and lockers for bicyclists.



  • Multiple U.S. Locations B-Cycle
  • Multiple U.S. Locations Alta Bicycle Share
  • Toronto, on Bixi