4 principles for a sustainable bike share

Bicycles are essential to solving a big problem faced by many cities around the world, created by the combination of urban agglomeration, limited space and unsuitable traffic infrastructure.

We predict that, very soon, bike-sharing will become as popular as similar car-based services, and bike-share companies will compete with each other to offer the best service for cities and their citizens. This can be the successful, sustainable future of urban mobility, but it depends highly on getting the regulatory framework for bike-share systems right.

Donkey Republic is a member of the European Cyclist Federation and BikePlus, who advise European cities on how to choose and evaluate public bike shares. In accordance with these organisations, precedents set by cities such as London, Amsterdam, Singapore and Den Haag, as well as learnings from our own operations and relationships with local city officials, we support the following directions for the implementation of sustainable bike-share solutions:

1. Limited fleet and designated parking

First and foremost, a public bike-sharing system can only be sustainable if it takes in consideration the issue of how to use an already overcrowded city space.

We put forward the hub-centric model as the best solution for the distribution of shared bikes in a city, especially if there are multiple companies operating in the same city. We believe a good management and monitoring of bike fleets by both bike share operators and city officials can be ensured if all operators use designated shared bike parkings for pick-up and drop-off, with a limited number of bikes allowed for each operator.

Why is designated parking so important?

Because it helps avoid:

  • cluttering sensitive public space and inhibiting public life,
  • bike oversaturation relative to the utilisation rate,
  • bikes being left in unsuitable locations, getting lost or not being regularly checked by owners.

Because it ensures:

  • a better control over the growth of the fleet of shared bikes overall
  • a good overview of where and when numbers should be increased based on utilisation rates and demand.

2. Maintenance and quality

Through analysis and constant iterations for processes and standards in our operations we determined that, in order to ensure efficient maintenance for a bike-share system, the following rules need to be reinforced:

  • One staff member assigned to every 300 bikes in the fleet.
  • Weekly checks on each bike in the fleet, even if no critical issues were reported.
  • An efficient way to report, track and monitor needs for service on bikes in real time.
  • The ability for the municipality and city representatives to monitor bike locations, numbers and growth rates through access to system data and a collaborative system build together with the operators.

High standards should be also met by the bikes used by operators, namely the ISO 4210 standard for safety and performance requirements. For a good user experience in urban contexts, and to encourage regular use, we recommend comfortable city bikes with gears and puncture-proof tires, solid and tall enough for riders 150-200 cm tall.

3. Multiple operators

For any city that is considering implementing or regulating a single- or multi-operator bike-sharing system, we recommend public licensing through a lightweight and transparent proposal process, instead of calling a tender.

We believe that the best solution is a city permit scheme which awards the most suitable operators (e.g. 2-4 operators per city) with a limited number bikes per operator (e.g. 1000 bikes – depending on the city’s size). We want to stress the importance of having multiple operators for healthy competition and diversity in the services offered to suit different types of users and use cases.

Similarly, the city should participate in adjusting the volume of each operator’s bike fleet regularly (e.g. once a year), depending on their performance.

4. Data privacy

It is important that high standards are kept for the usage of private data, and bike-share companies must actively consider this as part of their strategy and business model – not only comply with the minimum requirements of European data laws, but also to higher ethical standards.

We have consciously built a service which is financially viable based on user payments and, to some degree, on sponsorship. This means we don’t commercialise user data in any way to secure our business operations in the future.

Do you want a sustainable bike-share system in your city?

Contact us and we'll start building the best solution for your city's needs.