Monday, May 20, 2013

The Next Evolution in Bike Sharing

In just the last few years, many U.S. cities have caught on to the formerly European phenomenon called bike share. As bike sharing programs open across major cities in the U.S., many of them have seen great success with higher than expected rider turnouts fueling the expansion of these systems. However, one major piece of equipment has been keeping bike sharing out of smaller markets: the docking station. 

Once known as the symbol of bike share, the often massive and clunky docking stations required to lock bike sharing bikes may be a thing of the past. As seen here, Hoboken New Jersey is planning on being the first U.S. bike sharing city to launch a program without docks. Using what is being called a “smart lock” system, the bike sharing bicycles will be stand-alone bikes that can be locked anywhere a certain geographic boundary within the city. Using technology similar to car-sharing programs like car2go, the smart dock will allow people to track bicycles via smart phone, web, or just seek one out by looking around popular parts of town. 

Although this will most likely require a larger volume of bicycles, and the need for re-dispersal of bicycles may also increase, overall the market entry cost and capital cost will diminish substantially.  This will allow bike sharing to serve a wider range of communities of different sizes. Cheaper equipment means potential lower fees for use, which could lead to a larger audience for bike share. The introduction of this “dock-less” technology could revolutionize bicycle usage in the United States, getting more people out of cars and onto bicycles in communities of all shapes and sizes with the new competitive advantage this technology could potentially provide. 

Edited By Matt Berggren


  1. This is a timely post as I have seen a recent surge in those who are highly FOR bike share but highly AGAINST the kiosk slots that accompanies the program. These aren't technically NIMBY's but a sorta hybrid of the term.

    The New York Times does a great job of summing this phenomenon up with this article:

    "The critics say the kiosks are a blight. They clash with the character of residential areas of the West Village or Fort Greene, Brooklyn. They are already magnets for pigeons, garbage bags and dogs in need of relief."

  2. This is absolutely brilliant. Thanks for the post.

    As a consistent user of bike sharing in Minneapolis, finding a dock was always a problem and deterrent. Sometimes the dock was not near your destination, sometimes they were hard to find, and you can't look at your phone while you are riding to see the map location. Dockless bike share provides flexibility more akin to owning a bike.

    I also like how this model opens up competition in the bike share market by reducing overhead costs, at least theoretically. I can imagine that local companies will license the technology from a few innovative manufacturers that can produce it. Today's bike share is actually monopolistic, given that it is not truly a public good, opening up more firms to compete within a market would be healthy for the model. Although, consolidation may occur regardless due to the advantages of having a high density of bikes in a geographic area.

    I like the analogy to taxi cabs. Cities don't need to be in the business of operating cab companies, so why do they need to operate bike share companies? Strong regulations of bike share operators would be necessary, of course, but private providers would likely be more efficient and responsive to market needs.

  3. when i read that Hoboken New jersey would use bikes sharing, I ran to check when will Portland use it. here was a surprise, Portland will start it by spring 2014 according to city of Portland
    with that, people will have more access to travel by bikes specially for whom don't owe one and want to try it.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.