Bikes around the globe

Question to City Manager City Council Meeting 06/09/2010

Could the Manager give comparative data on the usage and value of city bike schemes in cities around the globe?

More and more cities across the globe are introducing bike rental schemes as part of inter-modal transportation systems, enabling people to move around cities in a convenient and efficient manner. In more recent years local authorities have promoted the introduction of cycle share schemes as an accessible alternative to motorised travel, which is sustainable, reduces the carbon footprint of commuting and provides for a healthier means of getting around the city.

The value of public bike rental schemes cannot be understated as the introduction of such transportation systems aid the delivery of a connected city with improved linkages and accessibility at peak and off-peak times for work, shopping and leisure purposes. The provision of bike stations at strategic locations within cities across the globe strengthens the link between land-use and transportation and as such provides for a more sustainable and healthier mode of movement within densely populated urban environments.

Paris Bike Rental Scheme
One of the most well known bike rental schemes in the world is the Vélib system which was introduced in Paris during the summer of 2007. Similar to the Dublin scheme, the Paris scheme is managed and operated by JCDecaux in return for between 1,600 – 2,000 advertising structures around the city.

The scheme originally began with 10,648 bicycles and 750 bike stations strategically located around the city of Paris. The scheme has grown significantly since its introduction and now provides for in excess of 20,000 bicycles, making it the largest scheme of its kind in the world. In its first year of operation Vélib had 198,913 annual subscribers, 277,193 seven day subscribers and 3,683,714 one-day subscribers. The bicycles were hired 26 million times with an average journey duration of 18 minutes. The subscription costs of the scheme are as follows:

Annual subscription: €29.00

Seven-day Subscription: €5.00

One-day subscription: €1.00

Similar to the Dublin scheme there is a period of 30 minute free usage with an incremental increase in rental costs thereafter. Ten service vehicles and approximately 400 staff members maintain and redistribute the bikes on a daily basis. In addition to this, the maintenance and redistribution of bikes is also supported by the operation of a maintenance barge which travels along the River Seine. Unlike the Dublin scheme, the Paris bike rental scheme has suffered as a result of vandalism with approximately 1,000 bikes reported to have been stolen since the scheme was introduced in 2007.

Lyon Bike Rental Scheme
The Vélo’v scheme in Lyon was introduced in May 2005. This was the first large scale cycle hire scheme to be operated in Europe and was provided for by JCDecaux in exchange for advertising in the City. The scheme has 4,000 bicycles and 400 bike stations. Each bike is used on average 8 times every day with an average journey time of 16 minutes per use. The 4,000 bikes are used approximately 20,000 times each day. The scheme has 60,000 subscribers. Of particular interest is the fact that 50% of subscribers are under 30 years of age and that 33% of subscribers are students.

Barcelona Bike Rental Scheme
The Bicing scheme was introduced in Barcelona in the summer of 2007. The scheme is managed and operated by the Clear Channel Advertisement Company.

The scheme is restricted to residents of Spain only and cannot be used by tourists to the city. The scheme began with 1,500 bicycles and 100 bike stations. Such has been the success of the scheme that the number of bikes has been increased to 6,000 whilst the number of stations has been increased to 200. The scheme was launched in May of 2007 and by November of that year the scheme had 90,000 registered users, leading to 22,000 trips per day which has resulted in the bikes being used on average 15 times a day. The success of the scheme was not as originally predicated and it is believed that the good weather experienced in Barcelona has contributed favourably to the schemes success. There is an annual subscription fee of €24.00 to avail of the scheme and there is a penalty of €3.00 for exceeding two hours of use. The City of Barcelona pays Clear Channel a fixed sum each year to implement and operate the scheme rather than fund the scheme through advertising. Some of the funding for the scheme is also generated through the city’s car-parking revenue.

London Bike Rental Scheme
The Barclay’s cycle hire scheme was introduced in London in July 2010. The scheme comprises 6,000 bikes with 400 bike stations. The scheme has been financed by the government with the scheme costing £140 million for the initial 5 years, with £25 million being recouped from Barclays Bank sponsorship. The schemes annual subscription costs £45 with the first 30 minutes usage free. Following the initial 30 minutes free usage there is an incremental increase in rental costs up to £50 for 24 hour usage. After this period there is a late return charge of £150 whilst a damage charge of £300 also exists. The bikes in London are a different design to that used in Dublin and some negativity has been experienced regarding the fact that the bikes design does not include provision for a basket. These bikes are also used in Montréal, Minneapolis, Minnesota, and in Washington DC. For the first month, the system is only open to members who have registered online for subscription. At the time of launch about 10,500 people had registered to become “pioneer” members of the scheme. The bikes are not available for walk-up “casual use” to non-members during this 4 week breaking-in period. Information on usage levels within the first month period is not presently available.

Montreal Bike Rental Scheme
The bixi public bike sharing system was launched in Montreal in May 2009.

The system provided for 3,000 bikes and 300 stations when first introduced but such has been the success of the scheme that it has now been expanded to provide for 5,000 bikes and 400 stations. The annual subscription costs of the bike scheme are Can$78.00 or a user can avail of a day pass for Can$5.00. The tariffs associated with the bike rentals are designed to encourage a rapid turnover of bikes. Similar to the Dublin scheme, the first 30 minutes is free. The second 30 minutes rental is Can$1.50 and after two hours usage, the 30 minute rate increases to Can$6.00. Less than two months of the scheme being introduced it had been reported that the scheme encountered significant difficulties due to vandalism and damage.

Media reports at the time suggested that 1 in 5 bikes were damaged whilst 15% of the bike racks had become defective. Following the initial teething problems vandalism has become less of an issue and the scheme has proved to be hugely successful. The scheme experienced 1.14 million journeys in 2009 whilst a total of 10,775 people availed of subscriptions in the same year.

A total of 48% of subscribers use the bikes to get to work or school whilst it is interesting to note that 59% of subscribers also own their own bike.

Melbourne Bike Rental Scheme
The Melbourne bike rental scheme was launched on the 31st of May 2010. The scheme consists of 600 bikes and 50 bike stations. Melbourne’s bike rental scheme is funded by the State Government’s Aud$38b State Transport Plan. It is designed to integrate with the existing public transport system. The Annual subscriptions costs are Aud$50, a weekly ticket costs Aud$8 and a one-day ticket costs Aud$2.50. The scheme has experienced considerable media attention given the fact that the scheme has not attracted many users. Despite the Aud$5.5 million investment, reports suggest that the scheme is only used 70 times a day. It has been suggested that the primary reason the scheme has experienced such low levels of usage is down to the fact that it is compulsory to wear helmets in Melbourne. It is worth noting that Melbourne is the only city in the world to have introduced a bike rental scheme and retained its legislative requirement to wear a helmet.

Increasing pressure has been put on the Governing officials to follow Mexico City’s lead and waive compulsory helmet laws for the public bike rental system in Melbourne.

The introduction of bike rental schemes across the globe has revolutionised the way people use and view cities. The introduction of bike rental schemes contribute to increased cycle usage in cities and aid the promotion of cycling as a safe, healthy and environmentally sustainable mode of public transport that improves the quality of life in cities natural and built environments. Each cities bike rental system is unique in terms of financing, its functionality and its receiving environment but the tangible impact of such transportation systems has been experienced universally. The positive effect of bike share schemes can be seen in Dublin City today.

Since dublinbikes introduction Dublin’s residents and visitors to the City have embraced the concept of a bike rental scheme and adopted the scheme with resounding enthusiasm. The introduction of the dublinbikes scheme has spawned from an innovative concept and has developed into a transport alternative that has captured the imagination and contributed to the growth of cycling in the city.


Jason Frehill, Executive Planner
Tel: 222 3482

Bike sharing schemes in one form or another have been in existence for over forty years. There are now over 100 bike sharing schemes operating in an over 125 cities around the world. Schemes range from quite basic coin-deposit systems to sophisticated smart card systems such as Dublin

Table from – Shaheen, Stacey & Hua (2010) Bike Sharing in Europe, the Americas and Asia: Past Present and Future; Transport Research Record

Bike sharing schemes vary considerably and it is difficult to make direct comparisons between schemes. For instance in various jurisdictions programmes are run by non-profit organisations, for-profit companies, transport agencies, local governments and more recently advertising companies. Business models increasingly feature ventures between state agencies and private companies where bike sharing may be one element of a larger programme of services.

The value of a bike sharing scheme to the individual citizen includes financial savings in transport costs, time savings, health benefits and improved mobility. The aggregation of these private benefits creates wider economic benefits in terms of increased disposable income, improved travel efficiency and reduced health care costs. To this can be added direct public benefits including lower localised pollution, lower CO2 emissions, lower road maintenance costs, less severe road accidents and less natural resource consumption. Determining the true economic value of a public bike scheme to a city is problematic because a) of the challenge of attaching an economic value to facilities to which there are no readily available market price and b) isolating the effect of the public bike scheme.


Ciaran Fallon, Cycling Officer
Tel: 222 6258