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The Evolution of Bike Sharing

10 Questions on the Emergence of New Technologies, Opportunities, and Risks

This working paper seeks to provide decision makers at the city level a series of frequently asked questions and responses in order to assess the adoption and implementation of bike sharing. It is not designed to be a comprehensive guide to bike-sharing implementation, nor is it meant to provide prescriptive recommendations; rather, it offers questions and answers objectively in order to assist city officials to navigate through the recent developments and innovations of new and improved technologies, data, and business models relating to bike sharing. The emergence of new technologies, including dockless and electric bikes, is creating new opportunities, so much so as to raise the interest and risk concerns of city officials around the world. This publication aims to shed light on these.

Key Findings

Executive Summary

Bike sharing allows a user to collect a bicycle on loan from one location and return it at another destination. Bike sharing began in the 1960s in simple form in Amsterdam; it has continued to evolve through technological innovation to a more sophisticated model of bike transportation within cities and has rapidly expanded over the last decade. The evolution of business models and private investment continues to reshape and widen the reach of bike-sharing services dramatically, so much so that the increased popularity is embedded now in the wider landscape of an emerging sharing economy in urban centers worldwide. Other similar services include Uber and Lyft, which allow users to avoid the high costs of and other barriers to ownership.

The objective of this working paper is to provide decisionmakers at the city level a series of frequently asked questions and responses in order to assess the adoption and implementation of a BSS. It is not designed to be a comprehensive guide to bike-sharing implementation, nor is it meant to provide prescriptive recommendations; rather, it offers questions and answers objectively in order to assist city officials to navigate through the recent developments and innovations of new and improved technologies, data, and business models relating to bike sharing. The emergence of new technologies, including dockless and electric (e-) bikes, is creating new opportunities, so much so as to raise the interest and risk concerns of city officials around the world. This publication aims to shed light on these.

Questions have been formulated to include all phases of a typical bike-sharing project cycle. They have been selected carefully by the authors, based on their expertise in providing technical assistance to local decision-makers whose aim is to implement a BSS in their cities. The World Resources Institute has provided technical support to cities such as Bhopal, India; Mexico City, Mexico; Bogotá and Santiago de Cali, Colombia; among others. The questions explore the role of policy, technology, safety regulations, financing, and monitoring and evaluation (M&E), these key topics having arisen during consultations with city officials regarding the integration of bike sharing into their larger public transit networks.

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