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Nice Ride MN bikes!
Photo of Nice Ride Minnesota bikes by Sharyn Morrow

Bikesharing is a system for letting people borrow bicycles for short periods of time, typically in exchange for a fee. It's different from bicycle rental in the same way that carsharing is different from car rental -- every shared bicycle is intended to be ridden by several different people in a single day.

In most modern American systems, users must buy a daily, monthly or annual membership to access the system -- about $60 to $85 per year -- then an additional fee for each half-hour used. In every major American system, the first 30 minutes of each ride are free.

These fees can be directly or indirectly subsidized by an employer or government agency, and can be combined with a public transportation pass.

"You can have casual users who use it for a day or an hour or 30 minutes, or you can get a member to use it," Mia Birk said at the Oregon Active Transportation Summit in March 2011.

The City of Portland maintains an extremely thorough Q&A about bike sharing, and has been covering the latest news on the subject since 2006.


[edit] Bikesharing in Portland

The Portland Bureau of Transportation, with loud support from the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, is trying to assemble funding for a 740-bike, 74-kiosk system based largely in Portland's Central City, but with hubs in other parts of Portland.

The system is expected to begin operation by fall 2013 if Metro approves a city funding proposal, according to the Portland Mercury.

[edit] BTA growth targets

The Bicycle Transportation Alliance's 2011 strategic plan anticipates a signed contract for 1,000 shared bicycles in Portland by 2013; 5,000 by 2016; and 10,000 across the region by 2030.

[edit] Funding

As reported by the Mercury, the City of Portland estimates that the system would cost $4 million for initial setup and another $1.5 million annually to operate.

Of those totals, the startup cost would be split between a $2 million Regional Flexible Funds allocation and $2 million in private sponsorship; and the operation cost would be split between $511,000 in user fees and $1 million in private sponsorships.

[edit] Possible private sponsors

Steve Gutmann told Portland Afoot in June that Portland's bikesharing plan had a "very, very interested" private sponsor who'd be able to cover much of the operating cost once startup funds were found.

Regence, one of Oregon's largest medical insurance firms, testified in favor of a Portland bikesharing plan at an August 2011 Portland City Council hearing and described itself as a possible sponsor.

[edit] Possible Metro funding

As of August 2011, the Portland City Council agreed to request $2 million from Metro's Regional Flexible Funds to kickstart a 740-bike, 74-kiosk bikesharing program.

The 4-1 vote, with only Amanda Fritz in opposition, came despite objections from activists with Southwest Neighborhoods Inc., who said the city should be spending its money on pedestrian safety improvements to SW Barbur Boulevard.

"If it's such a good idea, I don't understand why the private sector can't do it," Fritz said before her vote.

The Willamette Pedestrian Coalition and Upstream Public Health had also opposed prioritizing bikesharing over those projects, but reversed their positions before the vote after the city made two promises:

Upstream Public Health transportation policy coordinator Heidi Guenin called this compromise "not great, but not awful."

[edit] Intended audience

The typical customer is someone who walks out of their office on an errand and sees that a bike share is available.

"It makes the choices of where to eat, for example, during lunch, 10 times farther," BTA Director Rob Sadowsky in March 2011.

[edit] Not necessarily for bike owners

"Bikesharing systems are typically not for the person that owns a bike," Sadowsky said. "In some ways it's for the person who doesn't even think about the bike as part of their life."

[edit] Not ideal for commuters

Steve Gutmann of the Portland Sustainability Institute said bikesharing programs are not intended for use by commuters going one way and then back, since to make financial sense, each bike must be used by several people each day.

"It's a very expensive way to give every commuter a bike," Gutmann said.

[edit] Price

The initial investment for a modern bicycle sharing system is roughly $5,000 per bike, Gutmann estimated, and the ongoing operating cost is $2,000 per bicycle per year.

"It's a pretty expensive proposition," Gutmann said in March 2011. But in a major metro area, he said, "you should be able to recover half of that through operations."

For a scale of the system proposed for the City of Portland, that comes to $750,000 a year, Gutmann said.

"This is a contemporary, legitimate transportation solution, and as such costs real money," said Tim Blumenthal of Bikes Belong.

[edit] Losses to theft and damage

In Paris, where a 2009 BBC story reported the local bikesharing system was suffering from theft and vandalism, an average of 15 bicycles were being stolen per day, out of 80,000 daily users.

According to a Streetsblog post on the subject, the cost of replacing that many bikes would be "less than 2 million euros annually, out of 20 million euros in user fees."

[edit] In other cities

As of 2011, Boston, Denver, Minneapolis and Washington DC are homes to substantial bikesharing systems, with New York City planning for its own. Bikesharing systems also exist in Paris, France; London, England; Guadalajara, Mexico; and, according to the office of Mayor Sam Adams, "230 successful bike share programs across the world."

Most bikesharing systems launched after Paris's and are modeled on its price structure, with two components of the price: a subscription fee (a base charge for participation, typically by the day, month or year) and usage fees (variable based on the duration of each rental).

All the below details were current as of September 2011.

[edit] Boston

Boston's Hubway, operated by Alta Bicycle Share, offered 600 bikes at 61 stations when it launched in 2011.

Base participation costs were:

  • $5 for 24 hours
  • $12 for three days
  • $85 for 12 months (to become a "registered member" and get a 25 percent usage fee discount)

In addition, usage fees per rental for registered members were:

  • free for the first 30 minutes
  • $1.50 for 31 to 60 minutes
  • $4.50 for 61 to 90 minutes
  • $12.50 for 90 to 120 minutes
  • $6 for each additional half hour

One-day or three-day users were charged higher usage fees:

  • free for the first 30 minutes
  • $2 for 31 to 60 minutes
  • $6 for 61 to 90 minutes
  • $14 for 90 to 120 minutes
  • $8 for each additional half hour

[edit] Denver

In Denver, the 501(c)3 nonprofit Denver Bike Sharing operates Denver B-Cycle. Denver's system was the first citywide bikesharing system in the United States.

Base subscription costs were:

  • $6 for 24 hours
  • $20 for seven days
  • $30 for 30 days
  • $65 for 12 months

In addition, usage fees per rental were:

  • free for the first 30 minutes
  • $1 for 31 to 60 minutes
  • $4 for each additional half hour

[edit] Minneapolis

In the Twin Cities, the 501(c)3 nonprofit Nice Ride Minnesota offers bicycles at 95 stations. Prices were subject to sales tax.

Base subscription costs were:

  • $5 for 24 hours
  • $30 for 30 days
  • $60 for 12 months

In addition, trip costs per rental were:

  • free for the first 30 minutes
  • $1.50 for 31 to 60 minutes
  • $4.50 for 61 to 90 minutes
  • $6 for each additional half hour

Streetfilms created a short video about the Minneapolis program:

Nice Ride launched in 2010 with operating support from the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota Center for Prevention, which was in turn funded by the 1998 U.S. tobacco litigation settlement. Alta Planning conducted the study for its initial kiosk locations.

[edit] London

One of the world's biggest systems, London's Barclay's Cycle Hire, has 6,000 shared bicycles. They're sometimes known as "Boris Bikes" after Boris Johnson, the Conservative mayor who championed them after coming to office in 2008. The system launched in July 2010 with 5,000 bicycles at 315 docking points.

Each London bike weighed 50 pounds and offered three gears.

At launch, each key cost £3 (about $6) and a rental cost £1 for the first hour and £50 for 24 hours.

[edit] Washington DC

Capital Bikeshare, operated in Washington DC by Portland-based Alta Bicycle Share, offers more than 1,100 bikes.

Base subscription costs were:

  • $5 for 24 hours
  • $15 for five days
  • $25 for 30 days
  • $75 for 12 months

In addition, usage fees per rental were:

  • first 30 minutes: free
  • 31 to 60 minutes: $1.50
  • 61 to 90 minutes: $3
  • each additional half-hour: $6

[edit] External links

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