Develop A Bike-Sharing Program

“We could have spent more money and bought bikes that had gears,” says Banhazl. “You don’t need a lot of gears if your region is flat. Just invest in a sturdy, durable, and maintainable bike so you don’t have to replace the bikes every year.”

Stop Right There

Even though a cruiser-style bike has a coaster brake–the type you pedal backwards to stop–it is somewhat awkward for some people to use. For safety purposes and increasing ease of use, one may add a back-up braking system of handlebar brakes for both the front and rear wheels.

Other features to consider adding are a mud guard and a chain guard because no one wants a stripe of mud up the backside or a chewed-up pant leg.

“Have at least two different braking systems, the coaster brake and a hand brake, so if one fails, you have a backup for safety,” says Sobin. “But, for a park system to keep a bike-share program low-cost, you can go with just a coaster brake.”


“Since we weren’t sure of the level of experience with the rider, we have the balloon tires and hand brakes,” says Banhazl. But NYIT discovered not all of the add-ons were worth the effort or costs.

“We added nightlights and found it was a big mistake because no one wanted to ride at night, and the lights either fell off or were stolen. We investigated adding a book rack, but decided it was too dangerous if the books shifted, and we didn’t want to take that chance. We also looked at putting a basket on the front, but decided we didn’t want the added expense.”

Geared For Fun

“Depending on the terrain, you’ll want a bike that is geared one-, three-, or seven-speed,” says Sobin. “A single-speed bike is the most low-maintenance and durable option for flat terrain. A three-speed bike is perfect for rolling hills and a seven-speed for very hilly areas like San Francisco.”


Partner with a local professional bike shop for seasonal maintenance.

Maintenance is important in any bike-sharing program.

“At the end of the fall and spring semesters, our bike mechanic comes out and does maintenance on the bikes,” says Banhazl. “We also pull the bikes in winter and store them in a shipping container.”

Checking In And Out

Develop a system for checking the bikes in and out; it can be simple or incredibly high-tech. The simple version is similar to the cruiser-bike rental at a hotel that requires one to provide identification and pay a flat rate for the first three hours, and another fee for each additional 15 minutes.

Bike racks also can be fully automated, which allows riders using a credit card or smart card to eject a bike from a locked docking station. When finished using the bike, they simply return it to a docking station within the network, which automatically locks and stores the bike.

Bikes outfitted with a GPS can track who is using the bike, where they went, and how many miles they traveled.

Customized systems are an option as well, such as charging a monthly membership, a per-use fee, or a combination of both.

Georgia Tech is introducing a system using an automated phone system to manage checking in and out. The user sends a text message, or uses the mobile app to reserve a bike. The system unlocks the bike automatically, keeps track of how long someone uses it, and he or she can view riding data on the viaCycle website.

Before starting a program, make sure your bike infrastructure and signage are up to par.

“Start exploring funding options, including grants under reducing fuel emissions, reducing congestion, and sustainable and green transportation,” says Banhazl.

“Network and develop a coalition of local businesses and organizations that would support the program, and communicate with them the benefits of the program: such as bringing more foot and bike traffic to the community, reducing the community’s carbon footprint, and increasing the community’s sustainability and image.”

Tammy York is the owner of LandShark Communications LLC which specializes in media and public relations for outdoor recreation businesses. Her book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati, is available online and in bookstores. You can reach her at

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Related posts:

  1. Urban Bike Case Study
  2. Bike Lasers
  3. Pedal Power
  4. Pedaling Toward Progress
  5. Gaining Ground

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