Bike-sharing: Why the worry and inconvenience?

There was a recent comment under an article in autoblog on a new bike sharing app called Donkey Republic, which allows rental shops and private bike owners to rent out their bikes. The comment addressed bike sharing in general, saying “Bike-sharing makes no sense to me. Bikes are cheap to buy and free and easy to park. Why would you not just get and use your own bike? Who needs all the worry and inconvenience of bike-sharing? The only time I would find it useful is if I were visiting a different city.”

To begin with, it’s probably important to make the distinction between peer-to-peer bike sharing and city bike sharing. On the one side, applications such as Spinlister and Spokefly allow bike-owners to rent out their bikes to other users for a certain price. On the other hand, city bike sharing, such as the world famous Paris Velib system or Hubway in Boston, involves checking bikes in and out of existing stations, usually paying a yearly subscription fee and cost per trip to the operator. The two concepts may seem similar, but in my opinion they address very different groups of users. While peer to peer bike sharing is in many cases straightforward, its convenience is limited to that of owning your own bike minus the trouble of having to maintain or store it. It does not offer the benefits of truly on-demand mobility, where you can pick up or drop off a bike anywhere and without a moment’s notice, easily incorporating other means of transport into your journey.

So how can these systems become worrisome and inconvenient, when the whole point of bike sharing is entirely the opposite? Unfortunately, it can be the case. Let’s take city bike sharing in specific; it is most certainly frustrating to go to a station only to find no bikes available there, or to return a bike to a station that doesn’t have a place for it. What would the user do in this case? Depending on the system, there may be an app such as Spotcycle, BikeShare!, Bicyclette or All Bikes Now, among others, allowing the user to locate nearby alternative stations. Other systems have come up with innovative techniques, such as New York’s bike sharing system Citi Bike, which recently introduced valets, who are available at full or almost full stations to take incoming bikes to stations with fewer bikes. These are both reactive approaches to the problem. In order to truly prevent the problem from occurring in the first place, operators need the right tools to conduct careful logistics planning not only in advance but real time, during operations. This will not only ensure smoother operation and increase customer satisfaction, but also lower the cost of operations. Our goal at ElectricFeel is to help every bike sharing system around the world to implement these tools and benefit from the results.

To conclude, I totally agree with the final comment. Bike share is indeed the ideal choice for exploring a new city.

Effie Theodorou, ElectricFeel Business Development