Shared Mobility

The Optimal Implementation Model for Bikesharing Systems

Since 2007, after the launch of a large-scale public bikesharing system in Paris and its success, bike sharing programs have been spread around the globe as a new trend of public transportation. These programs appeared in the continental Europe as a public way to promote the use of more sustainable means of transport, but the question is: are they as useful as they appear to be? Moreover, are there better alternatives to boost and improve the quality of bike network or biker experience?

Every new urban mobility system is an additional option in a bunch of already established means of transport and has to justify its utility, investment and maintenance costs. This situation is specifically important for public transport systems as they normally go with public subsidies or private sponsorships.

Bikesharing systems: financial evaluation

When it comes to financials, the investment in bike sharing systems is remarkable, especially if it is compared to the demand that it can satisfy per station.

Referring to the first case of Barcelona’s public bike sharing system, operative since March 2007, the global initial budget was 15.9 million Euros for 6,000 bikes, 400 stations and logistic transportation to move bikes from one station to another. Adding to this, the figure increases with maintenance and staff costs, reaching 18 million Euros per year.

In conclusion, since its inauguration, the municipality has spent around 144 million Euros. Moreover, if the cost of maintenance of each bike per year is included, the cost is between 2000 to 3000 Euros. The same is the case in the city of Seville, both cities being in the list of the 20 most bicycle-friendly cities of the world.

Bikesharing systems: cost-effective solutions

Considering these figures, the implementation cost for these kinds of systems is high when compared to other alternatives like extending the existing bike infrastructure with more kilometers, which would mean up to 225 extra kilometers per year in the Barcelona case using the same budget. The same idea could be applied to calming street programs for a better and more friendly neighborhood.

For instance, a subway system costs far more than a bike sharing system, but the comparison between the demand that can satisfy each one of the system is substantially different.

A subway system is the prime example of massive public transportation system, for example, at peak-hour L1 Metro Santiago W-E direction amounts to 60,000 pax per hour. Santiago (and mainly in the rest of the cities) Metro represents 22 percent of labor commutes and bike only 5 percent (mainly private bikes). Furthermore, both measures help citizens, but Metro positive externalities are remarkably higher in terms of quantity and global impact. In the Barcelona case, they need more or less the same rate of subsidy as Metro or Bus.

For the same budget, another option could be giving subsidies to create buying incentives for high-standard bicycles or even electric bicycles. For example, in the Barcelona case, currently the bike sharing system has 6,000 bikes. Only with the maintenance costs, the municipality could distribute between 40,000 to 60,000 high-standard bicycles for free to its citizens (considering the estimated bike price: 300 Euros).

Indeed, Barcelona had the option of buying either 320,000 high-standard bikes or building up to 1800 kms of on-street bike lanes since 2007 with exactly the same amount of money.

Do you think bike sharing systems are the right approach to improve urban mobility? Share your opinion in our comment section.

Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.



  • herrbremerhaven
    31. July 2015 at 20:22

    The €300 per bicycle seems incredibly low, but I find the rest of the numbers interesting. One common complaint from US car drivers is that bicyclists are not paying road taxes, and hence not contributing to road repairs. It’s not a great argument, and one more of perception, but it is a barrier to overcome. Bicycles are too often seen as obstacles, instead of relieving traffic congestion, though awareness campaigns in media could bridge these gaps.

    I like the incentive idea, and it would make me think more about adding electric mobility to a bicycle, for even greater convenience. One device that attracted my interest is the Copenhagen Wheel, though it’s not cheap, and the first generation is a bit heavy. Something as easy as swapping a rear wheel seems like a great solution.

  • Lluis A. Vidal
    1. August 2015 at 1:14

    Thanks Herrbremerhaven.

    Refering to the comment about the bycicle price, I don’t know how much expensive is a standard bycicle in California-USA but I can tell you without any doubt that in the countries where I’ve lived [Spain and Chile] the market has a bunch of different alternatives with prices bellow this price [300 euros or 200.000 $] and those options are very popular. It’s hard to find somebody, who’s not a bike lover, buying bikes of a higher price.

    Just making a fast check at the most important megastores of each country:,127661&s=bicicleta


  • herrbremerhaven
    1. August 2015 at 23:47

    I wish we had those options in California. Most of the (very few) lower cost adult bicycles are poorly made. I think there is a market in the US for lower cost quality bicycles, but very few companies are addressing that market. The trade in used bicycles is very robust.

  • Paul Minett
    23. August 2015 at 19:20

    A nice article about an important topic. There are good reasons to provide shared bikes rather than subsidizing private ones. The public capacity of shared bikes is very important, though bike share is not usually (ever?) evaluated for it. A bike share that is not being used is still providing value to regional transportation if people are traveling to work as passengers instead of as drivers because they know they can access a free bike during the day if they need to go to a meeting or run an errand. How many car trips were not taken in Barcelona just because the bike share is available?

  • Lluis A. Vidal
    23. August 2015 at 20:01

    Thank you for your comment 🙂

    Indeed, it’s a good point. I would add to your idea: how many bikers would have shitch to biking with more infrastructure, cheap comfortable bikes and bike racks? Mainly, those who chose the bike sharing system were public transport users or pedestrians in Barcelona. So I assume that if Bicing was fare integrated it would be an effective measure to improve the public transport variety and attractiveness.


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