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Consumers Use Bike Sharing, Car Services Like Uber, Light Rail and Ride Sharing to a Growing Extent, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

Cycling, both as a means of recreation and as a means of transportation, has grown dramatically.  Cyclists who pedal to work are also proliferating.  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.  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 backs a bicycle-sharing program in Paris.  Sturdy, comfortable bikes called Vélíbs are currently available at hundreds of 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 a modest yearly fee.  Members create an account using their credit cards, which includes permission for the company to charge them if a bike is not returned.  
Bike sharing has spread to cities including London, San Francisco and Singapore.  Mexico City has a bike rental service called Ecobici with hundreds of pickup stations.
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 thousands of bikes.  Called Citibike, it is sponsored by banking giant Citigroup.  More than 1 million miles were traveled on its bikes in the first month of operation. 
The history of the most popular bike sharing system is complicated.  Bixi, a Canadian firm that designed and manufactured 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 cities around the world.  However, while PBSC sells the equipment, the systems themselves are typically operated by yet another firm, Alta Planning + Design.  Alta specializes in design, planning and implementation of bicycle systems, as well as pedestrian, greenway, park and trail corridors.  PBSC also sells equipment to companies other than Alta. 
One of the largest bike systems in the world is the bike program in Hangzhou, China, with tens of thousands of bikes.  Competition among bike sharing firms is fierce in Beijing where firms including Mobike, raised substantial capital and worked to attract riders. 

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.

     Greater consumer convenience was enabled in bike sharing with the “dockless” station.  Bikes are activated by smartphones, eliminating the need to build central parking and pickup stations.  Consequently, the bikes can be dropped off anywhere, at the convenience of the rider, and then picked up by the next user.  However, this also enables consumers to simply dump bicycles anywhere, often in poor condition, leading to massive losses for bicycle firms.
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.

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