Mobility and Transport

Clean transport, Urban transport

6.1 Bicycle sharing schemes, including rental

6.1 Bicycle sharing schemes, including rental


Public bike sharing schemes provide access to bicycles for both residents and visitors for use in a city without the need to own a bicycle or bring their own bicycle to the city, which in turn increases the visibility and profile of cycling in the city. Rental options provide a similar service, although are generally smaller, less widespread and are privately owned and operated.

Considerations for applicability

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Level of cycling

Bike share schemes can be introduced in a city with any level of cycling. However, they are often introduced in cities with low levels of cycling in order to encourage cycling and to increase the profile of cycling within the city.

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Urban layout/topography

Bike share schemes and rental services using traditional bicycles are more likely to be effective in relatively flat areas. The inclusion of electric bicycles in a bike share scheme or rental service can help in areas where the local topography (specifically hills) are viewed to be a barrier to cycling. Electric bicycles also enable larger distances to be travelled, so could enable a bike share scheme to cover a larger geographical area.

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Any members of the population could potentially use a shared or rented bicycle. Students and tourists could be potentially important customers of a bike sharing scheme. Students might be interested in cycling but might not have the space to store their own bike, while tourists might be interested in cycling, but may not brought a bicycle with them. In order to enable tourists to use the scheme, it will be important to allow short-term registrations and/or use. Rental services are often targeted at tourists.

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Finance Resources

The cost depends on its size and funding model. Bicycle rental and free-floating bike share schemes (otherwise known as ‘dockless bike sharing’) can come at no cost to local authorities (where they are run by private companies); at the other end of the scale, the cost of a bike share scheme could be significant, although there are models that are potentially low direct cost to the city authority (as in the case of Seville and Ljubljana).

A bike share scheme with a very small number of bikes and a single docking station could cost around €100,000, whereas a scheme with hundreds of bicycles could cost between €1 million and €2 million.

The annual operation costs of a scheme - i.e. to operate and maintain the system - could amount to between €1,200 and €1,500 per bike per year.

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Time & Human Resources

The time and human resources needed from the local authority depends on the model used. The local authority will need to engage with operators of bike share schemes, no matter what model is used, even for free-floating schemes. Bike rentals are usually private and so will need limited public authority input.  

For free-floating bike share schemes, the time needed might be limited to making sure that the schemes do not adversely affect the urban environment by blocking routes and access.

For bike share schemes that require docking stations, but which are run by a private operator, engagement with stakeholders and the service provider will be necessary to identify the most suitable locations for docking stations.

If the operation of a bike share scheme is undertaken by the local authority, it will be a lot more time- and resource-intensive compared to implementing the scheme in close collaboration with a company or contracting out the day-to-day operations.

Measure impact highlight

Public transport, bus and cyclist Modal share

The presence - and use - of shared or rented bicycles in a city will increase the profile of cycling within a city and potentially help to normalise cycling as a means of transport around the city. 

Note: An overview of the direct and indirect impacts resulting from correctly implemented cycling measures is available in Challenges that cities face and how cycling can address them.

In-depth measure analysis, case studies and further guidance