CitiesSeasonal Planning: How to design a bike-sharing scheme that works year-round
November 2, 2022

Seasonal Planning: How to design a bike-sharing scheme that works year-round

By Jessica Jones Langley
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The number of people renting bikes will fluctuate through the year - especially as the temperature dips and tourism increases.

So how do you plan a bike-sharing scheme that works equally well at the height of summer and in the middle of winter? In this article, we explore various ways to plan a system tailored to your unique city.

The seasonal impact on bike sharing systems

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First, it's important to understand just how much demand can change throughout the year. The amount of people renting bikes in summer can sky-rocket due to great weather and tourism, and there can be a large drop in winter.

At the height of summer 2022, Vancouver's bike sharing scheme, Mobi bikes, provided 164,000 rides while providing just shy of 22,000 rides in February. 

The trend is the same around the world, from Australia to Spain, factors like tourism and the weather can greatly impact ridership. Even in Scotland, which is no stranger to rainy days, over 20% of people answer “too cold / wet / windy” when asked why do you not cycle to work? (2019 Scottish Household Survey

So how can you plan a shared-bike scheme when you can't accurately predict the weather, and therefore demand?

Planning a bike-sharing scheme which works year-round

Choosing your fleet size and coverage

While some people would prefer to rent bikes short-term, others prefer to rent long-term. Using different bicycle fleets to answer these two distinct needs can make management of the scheme more complex for residents, not to mention costly.

A fleet of bikes within an augmented bike network means you can have a service that you adapt as needed. We developed the Fusion bike to help cities have a system which works for a city's residents and visitors. 

The Fusion bike can be switched from being available for short-term rental to long term rental. This is ideal during the back-to-school season, as many residents are looking for a personal subscription bike service and fewer people are using bikes on a short-term basis.

Every city is unique and mobility behaviours can vary throughout the year, so having a flexible system will be key to a successful bike sharing scheme.

Augmented Bike Networks, made possible by Fifteen's Fusion bike

Bike stations that do more

Having enough bikes is not enough, the locations of the bike stations need to work year-round for any rider. Some areas, for instance districts with lots of offices, may have a lot of people travelling to them in the morning but not necessarily leaving. This creates a glut of bikes as more and more people arrive with fewer people taking bikes out of the area. Tourists will also need strategically-placed stations to visit key landmarks and tourist destinations around the city, so what do you do? 

Here at Fifteen we have created practical parking solutions including a virtual parking system - a system which allows people to park bikes around bike stations or in dedicated zones. This system shows locations for people to leave bikes close to their destination and ensures that every bike is parked in a tidy fashion. 

We work with cities to help them understand the best type of station that would work for their unique needs. So whatever is causing fluctuations in the demand of a bike-sharing scheme, we can design your ideal bike-station network, one that allows people to pick up a bike and park a bike as they need.

What not to forget: Human Resources 

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Adapting your workforce in addition to your fleet

As residents and tourists benefit from a flexible bike-sharing scheme that adapts to your city's needs, the fluctuating workload of maintenance and management teams should also be considered.   

If we look at the example of Vancouver's bike sharing system, the amount of bikes being rented can increase tenfold during the summer. After working closely with operators and cities around the world we understand how important the people are who manage the bike sharing scheme. As ridership increases, we recommend temporary contracts for workers to support an existing team to keep the system running.  

How Fifteen's Fusion e-bikes adapt to your city

Especially if your city has a high influx of visitors during a tourism season, demand for bike-sharing will likely drop significantly when the tourists leave. Taking bikes out of service to safely store them can add to the overall cost, which was another reason why the Fifteen team developed the augmented bike network system. 

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Instead of being stored and not generating any value, the easy-to-use Fusion bike can be easily switched to being available for short-term rental or long-term rental - whatever your city needs at the time.

To build a network of bikes that caters for everyone, whether you're a tourist for a day, or a resident who needs a bike long-term, the Fusion bike from Fifteen will fit your needs

Every city is unique, so every city needs a unique plan

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