Here’s what bike-sharing programs need to succeed

11 Jan 2018

Bike sharing has become a buzzword in cities from Cape Town to Shanghai to Melbourne. Planners, politicians and media pundits keep touting their benefits: reducing pollution, congestion, travel costs and oil dependence, while improving public health. Bike sharing also helps make cities appear hip, vibrant and cosmopolitan – qualities much sought after by the creative class.

But what makes for a successful public bike-sharing program? This is an important question because installing one requires significant public and/or private investment and modifications to the built environment.

While many programs have been launched amid much fanfare, often their popularity has soon declined. A number end up operating at a financial loss and depend on other profitable enterprises to cross-subsidise them. Some have resulted in dumped and discarded bikes becoming an eyesore.

Understanding which factors enhance or hinder public bike sharing is critical in helping cities decide whether such a program is viable, before contemplating what design and siting will work best.

Drawing on current knowledge, we discuss the importance of the local landscape, climate, cycling infrastructure and land use. We also touch on other factors, such as the legal environment and the characteristics of the bike-sharing program itself.

This article appeared on the Conservation on 22 December 2017. Its co-authors include Dr  and Professor .

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