Authors: Susan Shaheen, Stacey Guzman, Hua Zhang
Published: January 1, 2010
Abstract: Growing concerns over global motorization and climate change have led to increasing interest in sustainable transportation alternatives, such as bikesharing (the shared use of a bicycle fleet). Since 1965, bikesharing has grown across the globe on four continents including: Europe, North America, South America, and Asia (including Australia). Today, there are approximately 100 bikesharing programs operating in an estimated 125 cities around the world with over 139,300 bicycles. Bikesharing’s evolution is categorized into three generations: 1) White Bikes (or Free Bike Systems); 2) Coin-Deposit Systems; and 3) IT-Based Systems. In this paper, the authors propose a fourth-generation: “Demand-Responsive, Multi-Modal Systems.” A range of existing bikesharing business models (e.g., advertising) and lessons learned are discussed including: 1) bicycle theft and vandalism; 2) bicycle redistribution; 3) information systems (e.g., real-time information); 4) insurance and liability concerns; and 5) pre-launch considerations. While limited in number, several studies have documented bikesharing’s social and environmental benefits including reduced auto use, increased bicycle use, and a growing awareness of bikesharing as a daily mobility option. Despite bikesharing’s ongoing growth, obstacles and uncertainty remain, including: future demand; safety; sustainability of business models; limited cycling infrastructure; challenges to integrating with public transportation systems; technology costs; and user convenience (e.g., limited height adjustment on bicycles, lack of cargo space, and exposure to weather conditions). In the future, more research is needed to better understand bikesharing’s impacts, operations, and business models in light of its reported growth and benefits.