The Expansion of Pedal Power: Bike Shares Are on the Rise

Over the last few years, bike share systems experienced a renaissance as the pandemic forced a hard decline in other forms of public transportation like trains and commercial flights where people wanted to avoid close contact with strangers. While ridership is now on a slow decline, since much of the “normal life” aspects have returned, many people continue to see bike shares as a viable means of transportation, lured by the ease and affordability of getting from place to place.

Bike sharing relies on a large network of self-service bike racks. Typically, a user checks out a bike using their membership on an app, or a one-off situation via a credit card. The person can then ride their bike and dock it at the nearby station of their destination. These bikes are specially designed to be comfortable, and adjustable, and have integrated locking mechanisms, a storage basket, and even a motor on some models. Bike-sharing programs often introduce a new demographic into cycling communities by providing a consistently reliable service. In 2013, a study conducted by the Transportation Research Record indicated that people who participated in bike shares were different from regular cycling commuters- they’re more likely to be younger women who have lower incomes and are less likely to own their own bike or private automobile. Especially in major cities, having stations where people can easily pick up and drop off bikes allows for ease of storage and maintenance.

The Expansion of Pedal Power: Bike Shares Are on the Rise - Image 3 of 3
Diagram of NYC Citi Bike. Image via NYC Bike Maps

Another study found that bike share programs have a positive impact on certain neighborhoods in which docking stations are located. These stations attract more customers to local businesses and resulted in users being more likely to spend more money within a four-block radius. In places like downtown urban cores, docking stations have been a huge success. They also provide value in cities that experience high levels of tourism by providing an alternate way to explore a neighborhood.

Even despite recent setbacks and data that indicate bike sharing may be less favorable now, many urban planners are predicting that we may see another wave of micro-mobility. One aspect that has set it back is the rising cost to ride bikes. To remain a viable method of transportation, the industry will need to find ways to fight inflation. Between 2018 and 2021, the average bike ride cost seven dollars, nearly doubling in that time frame and inching closer to a price that compares to an Uber. Additionally, especially in US cities, there’s a significant need for safer infrastructure for bike riders to feel safer. How future streets are designed will impact how often and how far people may choose to rent a bike. The United States is still a country that heavily depends on the use of cars, especially with the rapid increase of suburban sprawl, meaning that bike sharing has huge potential even in areas that aren't so dense.

The Expansion of Pedal Power: Bike Shares Are on the Rise - Image 2 of 3
© Kaley Overstreet

Recently, the rideshare app Lyft acquired the largest bike share service in the United States. The company, Motivate, is the parent company of 80% of all urban bike share companies including Citi Bike (New York City), Ford GoBike (San Francisco Bay Area), Capital Bikeshare (Washington, D.C. Metro Area, and CoGo (Columbus, Ohio). Lyft was also partially responsible for helping New York City expand its total Citi Bike program to more than 40,000 bikes. Bike sharing is part of Lyft’s vision to improve access to public transportation in communities that have been historically underserved, support sustainable measures, integrate bike shares with other forms of transit, and add an affordable way for people to get around cities. Bike sharing may very well continue to be a major cornerstone of urban mobility. Markets all over the United States have continued to express interest in kick-starting their sharing services or expanding their existing ones. Is pedal power the way of our urban future?

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on December 06, 2022.

About this author
Cite: Kaley Overstreet. "The Expansion of Pedal Power: Bike Shares Are on the Rise" 04 Mar 2023. ArchDaily. Accessed . <> ISSN 0719-8884

You've started following your first account!

Did you know?

You'll now receive updates based on what you follow! Personalize your stream and start following your favorite authors, offices and users.