Bike-sharing systems provide public access to bicycles for a limited time. The models employed vary. Some schemes provide free access to members and others charge a monthly or yearly fee; some operate stations across an entire city and others are intended for commuters. But they all have a common goal: to improve the cycling culture in cities and encourage people to use two-wheels more.
The bike-sharing concept has been around for decades. Since it first emerged, the technology involved has developed at a rapid rate, with smart phones and low-consumption GPS units now integral features of many bike-sharing systems.
As a consequence, investment-heavy fixed infrastructure options have been gradually replaced by solutions that allow for flexible parking of bikes in public spaces, whilst access is increasingly possible via users' smart phones. As a consequence, dockless bike-sharing providers have emerged and boomed in the second half of the 2010s, with particularly high market penetration in China.
The bikes can serve as a great last mile solution for connecting to public transport, offer an affordable mobility service in areas underserved by ‘traditional’ bike-sharing and public transport services, and provide additional data to planners to support the development of cycling infrastructure.
However, despite its rise in cities around the world, it is arguable that the concept's full potential has yet to be fully exploited. In addition, some negative side-effects have made it necessary for cities to develop regulations.
If not properly regulated, the ability to place bikes anywhere can lead to the obstruction of pavements, which poses a particular problem for people with reduced mobility and visual impairments, whilst it can also block other vehicles moving in urban environments.
Ultimately, it is up to cities to consider if and under what conditions dockless bike-sharing fits their mobility goals and is of benefit to citzens.
This includes considering appropriate infrastructure investments (e.g. bike lanes and pedestrian areas) and the reallocation of public space in favour of sustainable transport modes.
Developing Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (SUMP) entails a strategic process that defines the mobility vision of a city and ensures the involvement of all relevant stakeholders when setting goals and objectives.
The SUMP process and methodology offer an ideal opportunity to consider the place of dockless bike-sharing in a city's overall transport system and help create the right framework for such systems.
Download the full CIVITAS PROSPERITY Innovation Brief on "Regulating dockless bike-sharing schemes" here.
Authors: Fred Dotter, Mobiel 21, Antal Gertheis, Mobilissimus Ltd.
Image credit: www.blue-bike.be