Leader’s Lowdown – Overseas Bike Share Program Experiences

By Tony Stanley

I’m sure that many BN members have seen the growing number of dockless bike share bikes in the Sydney area and particularly in built up areas. I haven’t personally used any of the Sydney options myself, though I have (through work travel) experienced a number of programs in other countries. The following article summarises my experiences:

I have personally used or interacted with bike share programs in the following cities:

Budapest (Hungary), Malaga (Spain), New York (USA), Yokohama (Japan), Bern and Lausanne (Switzerland)

All these programs were owned by a government but generally the running of the system was contracted out to a private company.

All programs are operated as a monopoly (only 1 operator per city). I understand that Sydney has at least 3 different private companies operating competing systems with little input from councils.

All programs used a docked system whereby users would need to return bikes to specific docking stations that were set up around the city. I’m sure that having a government own the system allows for appropriate space to be allocated for these rack areas and not require operating companies to purchase this land. The one exception was Switzerland where the scheme is currently aimed at tourists who needed to return their bike to the same location but this is changing to a more standard docking system this year.

The bikes are always very heavy and sturdy (tyres >=50mm, internally geared hubs and often 26 inch or smaller wheels) with low gearing and an upright riding position. The bikes were not something that you could accelerate quickly. Access to the bikes was either via credit card or a mobile phone app.

The pricing of the schemes was setup to deliberately target regular short use cases where a weekly/monthly/yearly registration charge was paid which then gave unlimited free uses of up to 30min but then excess time charges after that. I was not aware of any schemes to on-sell metadata from your rides to make additional revenue but most of the agreements were not in English. The docked systems would have made this information less valuable though. The following article on the Sydney schemes is worth a read:

Helmets were not mandatory in any of the countries where these schemes were operating. It was extremely rare to see anyone riding a bike share bike with a helmet.

In the early hours of the morning it was not uncommon to see large trailers full of the bike share bikes being driven from downhill locations to uphill locations.