CitiesCity Bikes: Which operator is best?
November 16, 2022

City Bikes: Which operator is best?

By Jessica Jones Langley
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The options for public transport are endless - shared micro-mobility options include bikes, e-bikes, scooters, or even cars.

All corners of a city should be serviced by at least one transport option. To achieve this, bike-sharing is an essential element of any public transport network. 

Knowing that you need bikes as part of your network is one step, the next is understanding what that looks like - and more specifically understanding who can help you integrate bikes into your transport network

In this article, we explore the advantages and disadvantages of the two main options for who can operate a bike-sharing scheme.

 

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Private Operators: The Quick Option

Who is it best for?

Cities that have already invested in public bicycles and want to meet high demand, or alternatively, cities that have zero funds to put towards bikes.

Advantages

  • No financial investment from the city is needed.

Disadvantages

  • Lack of affordability: Fares are, on average, 4 x higher than those charged by a public bike service meaning it is not accessible to the entire community due to cost (for example one 20-minute trip can cost users £4). This leads to an exclusive system serving only those with higher incomes. 
  • No guarantee. The ability of the provider to maintain profitability dictates whether the operator continues its service - or changes it. We've seen entire bike networks being stopped in cities in the U.K. overnight due to issues like vandalism or theft as was seen with the city of Manchester. 
  • Profit-driven not people-driven. In addition to higher fares driving people away, the design of the network may not be inclusive. Poorer neighbourhoods may not get as many stations due to companies believing that some areas may be less desirable for revenue due to the area's demographic, or through the fear of bikes being vandalised. 
  • A profit-driven infrastructure. A private operator usually provides virtual stations otherwise known as dockless stations. While these stations are much easier to install, they can clutter a city as people leave bikes in an unruly way. 

Don't like the sound of going private?

Integrating an augmented bike network into a city's transport system

An augmented bike network, built in partnership with a city, aims to extend and support an existing transport network. In the second part of this article, we explore the advantages and disadvantages of having an integrated partner.

systeme-de-velo-public.jpgA station of the augmented bike network in Epinal, a region in France with 120,000 people

Integrated Operators: A Partner for Cities

Who is it best for?

All cities and regions. 

Advantages

  • Affordability. A close partnership with the city allows attractive pricing to be afforded to those in need. For example, in Paris, people can use the bike-sharing scheme for as little as €3 for a single trip, or €3.40 a month. Ensuring affordable pricing is critical to designing a system that benefits and is useful to the entire community.
  • Strong partner. An augmented bike network works better when the company works closely with the city to ensure every corner of the city is serviced. In return, the operator is able to offer valuable insights to the city. 
  • Profit sharing. Working in close partnership with operators of an augmented bike network also means participating in profit sharing. 
  • A robust system. The bikes and infrastructure of an augmented bike network has been specifically designed to withstand high levels of use and vandalism. 
  • People driven and inclusive. An augmented bike network supports entire communities to travel throughout a city. Stations can be easily placed nearly anywhere, and the system itself is very robust so areas underserved by bus or train lines can be easily incorporated into the public transport system - as seen in Epinal.
  • People friendly infrastructure. The benefit of working with a city include co-designing an infrastructure. An augmented bike network is built upon the knowledge of countless experts and is complemented by a city's strategic insights and goals. 

Disadvantages

  • Financial investment. 
velo-fifteen-paris-sudIntegrating bikes to your existing transport network can be easily done with the right partner

Our take based on years of experience working with cities

Can the private operator serve the interests of a city council? A private operator can provide a transport system, but a partner like Fifteen can work with a city to ensure the city's transportation, social and sustainability goals are met

After operating 50,000 bikes in 25+ cities across the globe, we strongly believe every city needs a valuable partner to work with to build integrated public transport - and cannot be outsourced to a private company. 

We partner with cities to build sustainable transport networks

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