Bike-Sharing Systems (BSS) are a type of mobility service that provides users with access to bicycles for short periods of time. They are a convenient and green alternative to private car use. The services are primarily operated by city governments, non-profit organizations, or community-based organizations.
Although there is a variety of bike-sharing systems in use across the world, most share some common goals. These include reducing traffic congestion, promoting a healthier lifestyle, and enabling greener growth in urban environments. In order to ensure that bike-sharing systems are sustainable, operators need to invest in infrastructure, maintenance, and innovation. However, there is a lack of conceptual research that examines the planning and design aspects of BSS.
This article provides an overview of key system metrics and proposes a generic framework for integrated planning and evaluation of BSSs. It also analyzes 38 BSSs in order to assess the operational, spatial, and temporal characteristics of their use. Ultimately, the authors categorize the systems into four different categories: docked, dockless, automated, and mixed.
Docked bike-sharing systems are typically based on a smartphone application that allows users to locate, unlock, and ride the bike to a nearby station. However, the system also relies on an embedded GPS on each bike. As a result, there is no need for the bike to be permanently fixed at a station. For example, Velib’, a popular BSS in Paris, offers a mixture of docked and dockless bikes.
The second generation of coin-deposit shared bikes was introduced in Copenhagen in the 1990s. However, the system did not eliminate theft or vandalism, and there were numerous issues relating to the distribution of bicycles. Therefore, a new challenge for BSS operators was presented. Rather than limiting the number of bikes, the second generation of the program allowed for thousands of bikes to be distributed throughout the city. Additionally, it incorporated locking and refunding bicycles, as well as a membership program.
The third generation of BSS, such as the Hangzhou Public Bicycle in China, is driven by technological advancements. These systems utilize smart cards, advertising, and other features to provide users with access to bikes. A growing number of cities worldwide have followed in the footsteps of these programs.
The fourth generation of BSS, referred to as dockless systems, rely on internet-based technology and a smartphone application to locate and unlock the bike. Unlike traditional station-based bike-sharing systems, these services are often supported by venture capital funding. Moreover, they are generally 24/7 systems. There are also no fixed bicycle parking stations to worry about. Ultimately, the goal of the system is to give individuals the flexibility to ride a bike to any location they wish within a predetermined duration.
With the advent of the Internet, the bike sharing industry has grown rapidly. Currently, there are over 2,000 bike-sharing programs around the world. Many of these programs have been introduced in large cities, but there are also smaller, more specialized systems in smaller towns. Even in these areas, the challenges of planning and designing a shared cycling network remain.