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10 City Bike Sharing Networks to Watch

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Get ready for the battle of the bike sharing networks — in which city residents or tourists can rent bicycles by the hour or day, often through subscription plans. B-Cycle announced on Monday that it plans to launch a bike sharing network this week in Denver, Colo.

It’s the latest in a string of cities gearing up to launch bike sharing programs this year, some of them employing electronic docking stations powered by solar panels and connected to wi-fi networks, and giving users access to real-time info about bike availability through their smartphones. Paris, with the Velib program it launched back in 2007, helped popularize the idea of bike sharing networks and a growing number of cities are beginning to take up the charge.

All of this fits into the larger trends of smarter transportation systems, innovation around providing mobility as a service, and unconventional players taking on new roles in the transit game — from nonprofits to advertising giants to health insurance firms. These 10 programs offer a glimpse of how bike sharing is putting technology to work, who’s paying what, and what you might expect in your own city sometime soon.

City Who’s Involved How It Works Scale & Timeline What It  Costs
B-cycle (made up of health insurance firm Humana, Trek Bicycle and ad agency Crispin Porter + Bogusky) designed the system. Non-profit Denver Bike Sharing will own and operate it. Users can sign up for membership online or at a kiosk. Access card required to unlock bikes, which can be returned to any other station around the city. Launching Apr. 2010 with 500 bikes at 50 stations. $40/year for students. $65/year membership (unlimited). $55/year per employee for corporations. Free first 30 mins, with rate increasing from $1.10 for each additional half-hour.
London Cycle Hire
(aka Boris Bikes)
System developed by Montreal’s BIXI. City transportation authority (Transport for London) still seeking commercial sponsor, AFP reports. Users can pick up/drop off bikes unlimited number of times during rental period. Scheduled to launch Jul. 2010 with 6K bikes at 400 stations. Installation/operation costs expected to total £140M over six years. Subscription options include £45/year, £5/week or £1/day access. Usage fees apply after first 30 mins (£1 up to 1 hour, £4 up to 90 mins, £6 up to 2 hours) the UK Independent reports.
System developed and slated for installation by Montreal’s BIXI. Set to be operated by Royal Automobile Club of Victoria and Alta Planning & Design. BIXI’s portable, solar-powered, wi-fi enabled stations can be relocated based on demand. BIXI will supply parts, training, tech support. Installation of 610 bikes at 52 stations scheduled for May 2010, program launch scheduled for June 2010. To be announced.
Mexico City
Operated by Clear Channel Outdoor Mexico. Registration required online or at the Ecobici office to get an RFID swipe card, which unlocks the bike. Launched in Feb. 2010 with 1,100 bikes at 85 stations. According to The Bike-sharing Blog, plans call for expansion to 6K bikes. 300 pesos/year subscription.
Nice Ride
System developed and installed by Montreal’s BIXI, which will also manage customer service. Backed by Blue Cross, Bike Walk Twin Cities, city government. Non-profit Nice Ride Minnesota running the program. Ads will be sold for individual stations. Full-time crews shuttling around in small electric vehicles will clean/ maintain the fleet. Tourists can sign up for day use via kiosk/credit card reader at station. Solar-powered kiosks can be removed in winter. Day pass sold at kiosk. Subscriptions sold via web or phone. Scheduled to launch Jun. 2010 with 1K bikes at 80 stations. Bike Walk Twin Cities allocated $1.75M in federal funds. City will provide $350K. Additional $1M will come from tobacco settlement funds through Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota. $60/year subscription for unlimited number of rentals April-November.
Montreal BIXI Operated by BIXI, Montreal’s Public Bike System Company. Subscriptions sold via web or phone. Day pass available at solar-powered, wi-fi enabled kiosks. Portable stations can be relocated based on demand, removed during winter. Bike availability updated in real-time, accessible via web, iPhone or other mobile device. Launched in 2009 with 3K bikes. Now has 5K bikes at 400 stations. $78 season pass (May-November, depending on weather), $28/month, $5/day. Usage fees charged after 30 mins. Max 24-hour rental. Montreal invested some $13M to develop and start the program.
Paris Velib Operated by French advertising firm JCDecaux in exchange for advertising rights to 1,600 outdoor displays. City gets subscription/user fees. Swipe credit card to unlock bike from electronic docking station. Fleet of transport vehicles redistributes bikes. Launched in 2007 with 20K bikes at 1,450 stations. JCDecaux reportedly invested $140M to set up the system and collects 80M euros/year from ad space provided under Velib deal with city. As of late 2009, JCDecaux paid $5.5M/year to Paris. Including start-up  maintenance costs, bikes cost $3,500 apiece, NYTimes reports.
Toronto, Canada Operated by Montreal’s BIXI, which the Toronto Star reports is now seeking sponsorships. Plan calls for users to swipe a credit card or pass. 10-year program starting May 2011. 1K bikes at 80 sites (pending approval from public works committee). City to guarantee $4.8M 10-year loan. Expected to cost $1.3M/year to run. Subscriptions go for $30/month or $80/year, plus usage fees after 30 mins.
Toyama City, Japan
Backed by city government. Run by Cyclocity, a subsidiary of French ad agency JCDecaux. Revenue expected to come from ads on bikes and at stations. Bikes can be returned to any station in the city, placed every 300-500 meters in central Toyama. Launched Mar. 2010 with 150 bikes at 15 stations. City reportedly invested 150M yen. Annual subscription costs 700 yen/month. Week-long pass costs 1,000 yen. First 30 mins free.
Washington, D.C.
Clear Channel Outdoor runs SmartBike for district. Revenue from fees and subscriptions goes to DOT. Clear Channel gets exclusive ad rights at bus shelters. Sign up for membership/access card online. Availability of bikes at different stations can be checked online. 3-hour max rental period. Launched in 2008 with 100 bikes at 10 stations. Individual subscriptions cost $40/year.

Related articles on GigaOM Pro (subscription required):

Mobility on Demand Takes Aim at Transport Networks’ “Last Mile”

Electric Vehicles Give Mobility as a Service a Jumpstart

Photo courtesy of Flickr user sillygwailo and Sally M*’s photostream

13 Responses to “10 City Bike Sharing Networks to Watch”

  1. I’d definitely mention Hangzhou, China’s– as I understand it, it’s currently the largest in the world and still growing. In the main body of the city, stations are at least one on every block; in fact, I’d heard the total bikes was 50,000+ with more being added.

    • Fortunately, many more bike sharing programs exist than I could fit into this one post. :-) By all means, though, let’s hear about any and all of ’em. @JP, if you’ve used Velo’v as well as Velib, I’m curious to hear how the experience compares.

  2. That’s it I’m moving to one of the above cities- London is terrible for cyclists. I haven’t owned a bike since I was 7 and would love to have at least a cycle lane as opposed to a roundabout to learn on!