- KATE FILLIN-YEH
- Jun 18, 2017
When Paris joined forces with JCDecaux to launch the first modern bike-share system in 2007, it created a model for bike sharing around the world. A decade later, cities and operators are working together in hundreds of cities worldwide to fill an essential urban mobility need: short, one-way bike trips.
But starting in January, a new model hit the streets in cities across the U.S. Sometimes called “rogue bike shares,” these systems are rolled out by private operators without any discussion or coordination with local government or bike-share operators. From BlueGoGo in San Francisco, to Spin in Austin, and LimeBike in smaller cities across the West Coast, these systems are deeply subsidized by venture capital and offer alluring prices to riders. They have been hailed as the next innovation in bike share—cheaper and better for users and cities alike. But how much does bike sharing need to be “disrupted,” and what do cities and residents actually stand to gain?
At $1 per trip, rogue bike share sounds like a great deal. But if you take more than one trip or rely on the system for a daily commute, it gets pricey fast. A person using bike share to get to work, taking two trips per weekday, would pay $2 a day, $10 a week, or $40 a month. Compare that to established systems, where the more often you ride, the cheaper each trip gets. A Relay rider in Atlanta or a Citi Bike rider in New York pays only $15 per month. Riding to and from work, five days a week, means that each trip cost 35 cents. For low-income people, bike share can be even cheaper, as an increasing number of cities offer subsidized passes. A low-income Philadelphian with an AccessPass membership to Indego pays $5 per month, or just 11 cents per trip.