January 9, 2012

Bike Share 101

Last week I talked about Consider Biking's proposed bike share siting locations but I failed to discuss what a bike share entails. The term "bike share" is rather broad and could have many implications. Thankfully, there have been some large cities around the country which follows a basic template which I believe would be used to implement Columbus' plan as well.

Let's talk about the "bike" part of it. All of the bikes will be the same exact model. The bikes are made to be adjustable, although mainly with the seat post. Secondly, they're designed to be easy to use so they have hub gears which are low maintenance and normally require twisting the handle bar to shift gears and is overall very easy to use.

The "share" part is very different from what one would assume. Most bike shares have short-term plans aimed at tourists like a 1-day or a 3-day plan but they sometimes require a hold on a credit card for a large amount ($1000 in Washington DC's case) in the event that the bicycle is not returned. A membership of a longer duration, such as a month or a year, normally does not require the hold on the credit card because it requires a more in-depth registration which allows the operator of the bike share to have an address to attempt to get their bike back, if need be.

After you pay whatever fee for the day, 3-day, month, whatever pass, you "rent" a bike from a bike station and have 30 minutes to return it to any bike station for no fee. However, if you go over that 30 minute time limit, be prepared to pay some money. You could return the bike at an intermediate stop and immediately check out another to get 30 more minutes of fee-less biking. 

Membership and Usage Fees (Washington D.C. program)

Membership Fee

Usage Fees (Washington D.C. program)

Ride TimeTotal Hourly Fee

24-hour and 3-day Members
Total Hourly Fee

30-day and Annual Members
0 - 29:59 minFREEFREE
30:00 - 59:59 min$2.00$1.50
60:00 - 89:59 min$6.00$4.50
90:00 - 119:59 min$14.00$10.50

There are the basics. If you're interested in more info, Portland, of course, has a great resource of bike share programs and you can also visit some websites of cities which already have them:

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  1. A bike share went in in Boston this past summer - Hubway. I think it's been more successful than anyone could have imagined, particularly with Boston's drivers, who have a less-than-stellar reputation. I used it a couple of times, but since I have a folding bike, the idea of being able to have a bike near my office that I can use conveniently for errands during the day wasn't really new to me (as it's also the bike I ride to work, and home, and keep under my desk). However, I can see the appeal of Hubway, especially for people who don't want to be responsible for their own bike maintenance. The one criticism I have is that Hubway shuts down at the end of November. Ordinarily, I understand why, since the weather can get pretty ugly. But this year, the winter's been so warm, it seems like they could have continued to operate all this time. Maybe next year, they'll take a weather-based, rather than a month-based approach for the shut-down.

  2. That's great that Hubway is doing so well. Like you, I probably wouldn't use a bike share if it popped up in Columbus, but had I visited Boston when it had a bike share, I probably would have used it - biking in good weather normally beats the experience of public transit. I think bike shares are more geared towards casual bikers or tourists but those people could turn into dedicated bicyclists one day.

    If I were Biking New York or Boston, I'd probably look into a folding bike but thankfully my work provides enclosed bicycle parking. Plus, I have a somewhat crappy looking bike so I'm not that scared of it being stolen.

    As for ugly weather, I was under the impression that operators dismantle stations/bicycles for inevitable snow storms for winter. From a business prospective, I kind of agree with it because people are less likely to bike in the winter (less revenue) and the unpredictability of weather would increase cost of station removal at a moment's notice. I think it kind of lends to the idea that bike shares are for casual bikers/tourists.


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