Please wait while the search results are loading...

Bicycle Sharing Grows in Major Cities, But Financial Outlook Is Poor, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

Cycling, both as a means of recreation and as a means of transportation, has grown dramatically. Between 1977 and 2009 in the U.S., annual bike trips more than tripled in number. Cyclists who pedal to work are also proliferating, with numbers doubling between 2000 and 2009. The U.S. Census’ 2012 Annual Community Survey showed that 865,000 people (about 0.61% of the commuting public) rode bikes as their primary method of getting to work, up 9% from 2011. Bicycle sharing systems are responsible for part of this growth, both in the U.S. and in other parts of the world, but many of these new services are off to a shaky start financially. The Earth Policy Institute estimated that the number of bicycles in U.S. public bike sharing programs was more than 30,000 in 2014 and expected the number to reach 38,000 in 2015. In some cases, operating costs have been higher than expected, in others equipment losses have been high or ridership has been low. Nonetheless, local governments are generally very supportive of encouraging this emissions-free, exercise-inducing form of transportation.
Advertising firm JCDecaux in Paris launched a bicycle-sharing program in 2007. About 20,000 sturdy, comfortable gray bikes called Vélíbs are currently available at 1,800 rental stations throughout the city. Riders can rent bikes by the day or the week, but there are also annual subscriptions that allow unlimited 30-minute maximum rides for about 29 Euros per year. Members create an account using their credit cards which includes permission for the company to charge them if a bike is not returned. Initially the program was a success with approximately 42 million rentals in the first 18 months, but by early 2009, about half of the Vélíbs in the original fleet had been stolen and even more had been vandalized. JCDecaux negotiated with city officials, who agreed to pay for bicycles needing replacement.
Despite the difficulties, bike sharing is catching on and spreading in small ways to cities including London, San Francisco and Singapore. Mexico City has a bike rental service called Ecobici with hundreds of pickup stations. As of mid-2015, the program reported more than 25 million trips taken. 
The City of New York launched its own bike share program in 2013, with sturdy bikes maintained by Alta Bicycle Share of Portland, Oregon. The program includes 10,000 bikes and 330 docking stations. Called Citibike, the program is sponsored by banking giant Citigroup. More than 1 million miles were traveled on its bikes in the first month of operation. In late 2014, former head of New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority Jay Walder was appointed CEO of Alta. He quickly moved the company’s headquarters to New York City and added 6,000 new bikes. Alta, which had been in bankruptcy, was taken over by Bikeshare Holdings in 2014.
The history of the most popular bike sharing system is complicated. Bixi, a Canadian firm that designs and manufactures both bicycles and related technology for bike sharing systems, was originally formed by the City of Montreal, and later spun-off as a free-standing company, eventually supported through a large loan from the city. Bixi’s technology is highly advanced, utilizing solar power for the pickup stations (called “docking stations”), as well as wireless communication networks for management. These features make it possible to install a new docking station virtually anywhere, without wiring or power.
In addition to developing the technology and bikes, Bixi operated the sharing systems in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. The company eventually sold the international rights to its system to a third party, PBSC Urban Solutions, which is headquartered in Quebec, Canada. PBSC systems are in operation in such American cities as Washington, D.C., Chicago, Boston, and San Francisco. However, while PBSC sells the equipment, the systems themselves are typically operated by yet another firm, Alta Bicycle Share. Alta has taken over operation of the Toronto, Canada system, as of mid-2015, and had expanded further into Melbourne, Australia. PBSC also sells equipment to companies other than Alta. The largest bike system in the world as of mid-2015 was the 90,000 bike program in Wuhan, China.
Bicycle Sharing, a Logical Solution
for Global Problems:
Bicycle sharing networks are a perfect fit with many of the world’s dominant trends. With relatively low capital costs and the ability to rapidly launch new bicycle sharing networks with little new infrastructure, the trend is likely to continue to grow very rapidly around the world. It is a logical response to the following global conditions:
·         Obesity (bicycles are a practical means of exercise that can be used by almost anyone)
·         Traffic congestion (commuters on bicycles can speed past traffic jams)
·         Air pollution (no emissions)
·         Growing need of transportation in urban centers in emerging nations (as more and more workers move into crowded metro areas like Beijing and Mumbai, bicycles are a logical way for them to have inexpensive access to transportation)
Source: Plunkett Research, Ltd.
Bikes and bike lanes are proliferating in cities around the world, including in Latin America. In Buenos Aires, 87 miles of bike lanes were created since 2009. Chicago’s Streets for Cycling Plan 2020 calls for a 645-mile network of on-street bikeways, while New York City doubled its bike lane network between 2006 and 2013.
Bicycle safety will be a growing issue as more cyclists take to the roads. In the U.S., approximately 800 deaths and more than 500,000 emergency room trips related to cycling happen each year. Head injuries typically account for two-thirds of hospitalizations, according to the University of Wisconsin. However, accidents might lessen as drivers become more aware of cyclists. For example, in the Netherlands, where cycling has long been a part of urban living, drivers are encouraged to open their car doors with their right hands, therefore forcing them to look back, over their left shoulders, for oncoming cyclists before opening doors. In Boston, stickers alerting taxi passengers and drivers to look before opening doors were installed in 2013, with similar stickers appearing in all cabs in Chicago. The National Association of City Transportation Officials created an urban bikeway design guide for implementing bike safety plans including buffered bike lanes, intersection signals and more.

A Representative List of Organizations that Have Used our Research and Products:


I’m amazed at how much information is available and the various ways to access it. This will be a major resource for our serious job seekers.

Career Services, Penn State University

Plunkett Research Online provides a great ‘one stop shop’ for us to quickly come up to speed on major industries. It provides us with an overall analysis of the market, key statistics, and overviews of the major players in the industry in an online service that is fast, easy to navigate, and reliable.

Wendy Stotts, Manager, Carlson Companies

I really appreciate the depth you were able to get to so quickly (for our project). The team has looked through the material and are very happy with the data you pulled together.

Hilton Worldwide, Marketing Manager

We are especially trying to push Plunkett since all of our students have to do so much industry research and your interface is so easy to use.

Library Services, St. John’s College

We are especially trying to push Plunkett’s since all of our students have to do so much industry research and your interface is so easy to use.

Gary White, Business Materials Selector, Penn State University

Your tool is very comprehensive and immensely useful. The vertical marketing tool is very helpful, for it assists us in that venue, as well as targeting customers’ competition for new sales…The comprehensive material is absolutely fabulous. I am very impressed, I have to say!

Tammy Dalton, National Account Manager, MCI

The more I get into the database, the happier I am that we’ll have it–REALLY happy!!! Between the quality and affordability of your product, its appeal to and value for our users, and the inestimably ethical and loyalty-guaranteeing conduct of your business, I will always have more than sufficient praises to sing for Plunkett Research.

Michael Oppenheim, Collections & Reference Services, UCLA

Plunkett Research Online is an excellent resource…the database contains a wealth of useful data on sectors and companies, which is easy to search and well presented. Help and advice on how to conduct, export and save searches is available at all stages.

Penny Crossland, Editor, VIP Magazine
Real Time Web Analytics