How Does Bike Sharing Work?

The benefits of commuting by bike are not the same for everyone.

You might live too far from work, have an unpredictable work schedule, have to take some sketchy roads or head out in less than favorable weather .

Or, you may not even have to leave the comfort of your own home if you are home based.

But it does not matter if you do not bike to work. Regular biking is still an option for you.

Aside from being a mode of transport, it is also a great source of fun!

The city can take away the sense of adventure from life, but biking recharges it.

Flying down a hill, or even the challenge of going up it gets the blood pumping like no other activity.

Riding a bike also contributes to a healthy lifestyle, and you would be surprised by just how many benefits there are.

Biking contributes to stronger bones, reduced stress, better heart fitness, as well as reduced body fat.

But how can you enjoy biking if you do not actually own a bike?

Well it all depends on where you live, but bike sharing is now common across cities worldwide.

These are short-term bike hiring schemes designed to be affordable and help you to get around on your daily commutes within a city.

Bike share schemes might be offered by the government, a private bike-share company, or even a partnership between private company and local authorities.

All bike share schemes are different from one another in some way or another, but the idea is always the same; get more people on bikes, and reap the benefits of this form of transportation.

How Does Bike Sharing Work

Bike sharing emerged in Europe in the 1960s. However, it took a while for other parts of the world to cotton on.

But by around the 2000s, the schemes were no longer limited to European countries.

The average bike share scheme works on a pretty standard set of features.

Systems will be designed with user-friendliness in mind, and generally, can be used by people of all ages.

As all bike share schemes work on the same principles, somebody visiting a new city should not have any issues renting a bike.

All bike sharing schemes tend to have bikes based at some sort of rack which acts as a station, a payment system (either in-app or kiosk-machine), as well as the option to hire on an hourly, or membership basis.

Bikes and Stations

It is no surprise that bikes and the stations where you will find them are paramount in a bike share scheme.

Bikes will be standard sized, often have simplified gear systems, and be a distinct color pattern.

Colors are normally eye-catching so that the bikes are clearly identifiable.

This serves to make it easier to find them, but also as a form of advertisement; especially if the bike share scheme is run by a private enterprise.

Looking at the bikes, you will notice that they are usually chunkier with heavier frames.

They do not look like your typical mountain or road bike, as their frames tend to be a universal shape to maximize accessibility.

Seats are easily adjusted, but handlebar height cannot be changed. The look of these bikes is designed to set them apart.

So it would be difficult to mistake one for a privately owned bike.

Stations is a little bit of a misleading term, as they are essentially racks with a little technology built into them.

Sometimes the racks will have a payment kiosk next to them, and these work similarly to ticket machines at car parks.

If there is no payment kiosk, then the payment system is most likely built into the scheme’s mobile app.

Bike stations will usually hold a certain number of bikes depending on how busy the area is.

For example, stations in the city center will have more than stations in the suburbs.

Some bike share schemes are also trying rack-less bike share.

The bikes just need to be left either in a specific area, or within the usable area in general. This has both pros and cons.

The pros being that you do not have to worry about returning a bike to a specific point.

But the con is that it could be more difficult finding one to rent.

The way in which you rent the bike depends on the system. Some require you to swipe a credit card, and others to insert an e-key.

But, this does depend on whether you have a membership, or if you pay as you go. Payment is always made with credit card as this acts as theft-insurance.

If you disappear with a bike, then you will likely incur a charge for the replacement.

Replacement fees can be expensive, as the scheme operator will assume that the bike will never be returned.

You do not usually have to put a bike back at a specific station.

Schemes make it simple to return bikes by allowing you to leave a bike at any station, as long as there is an available space.

The scheme will hire employees to look after stations.

They ensure that stations are in working order, and move bikes between stations to make sure that there is an even distribution

By making renting and returning so easy, schemes help the public to see biking as a feasible transport alternative for daily commutes.

Biking is not just for the weekends, but can be used to see friends, get to work, go to the shops, or even head to the other side of the city.

Rates and Fees

A bike share scheme will usually have a joining fee, and then either pay as you go rates and/or memberships.

The joining fee grants you access to the bikes, and then you decide on how frequently you will use the bikes.

Joining fees ten to be a few dollars, but are generally low-cost to encourage bike uptake.

Your usage fees will depend on how often you hire a bike. They are usually charged in 30 or 60 minute increments.

If you plan on using a bike share scheme on a regular basis, then a membership is probably going to be your best deal.

Whereas, pay as you go is best for those who want to use bikes, but do not know how often they will actually rent one.

Membership fees will work out cheaper per hour than pay as you go rates. But they do usually incur a higher upfront fee.

Obviously the length of your journeys affects how much you pay.

So it is worth your while taking a minute to compare pay as you go and membership rates, just to be sure what works out best for you.

Regardless of whether you’re a member or pay as you go’er, usage fees for many programs can change drastically.

Rates are sometimes structured so that you incrementally pay more each hour. Others are set at fixed hourly rates.

And some schemes even give riders the first 30 minutes free.

This is so riders are encouraged to make shorter journeys, and reduce pointless bike riding.

When you return a bike to a station, the timer resets to zero.

And this happens even if you return a bike and take out another one at the same location straight away.

This can work in biker’s favor if you want to bike for longer than the initial free time, but without paying.

As long as you return your current bike before the free period ends, you might be able to take out another without charge. However, this does depend on the scheme.

But if you are charged for your ride, it will be calculated based on how much time over the free period you were riding.

Bike Sharing Schemes

So now you know how bike sharing works.

The next step is to have a look online to see if your city has a scheme, and check out the cost of hiring.

You might be surprised by just how affordable bike sharing really is.

And there is a good chance that you will arrive at your destination sooner than if you were driving.

Cynthia Reeves
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