Public Bicycle Share Programs: Working, Pros, and Cons
Public bicycle sharing (PBS) programs are highly preferred transportation alternatives among commuters these days and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has evidently accelerated the demand for bicycle sharing to greater extents. While such schemes offer many benefits to the commuters, they also have a downfall.
Dreams of buying spacious cars and taking out our family on weekends for picnics broke due to the outbreak of coronavirus and the imposition of strict lockdowns by the governments of many countries across the globe. While the sales of automobiles declined rapidly amid the pandemic chaos, heath freaks and enthusiasts continued with their cycling habits to beat the stress. Since cycling is a sustainable, cost-effective, and healthy mode of transportation, programs like cycle-to-work in the United Kingdom witnessed a 200% rise in the demand for bicycles by emergency workers.
Now that the traffic levels are returning to pre-pandemic normalcy, many cities are planning to enhance the infrastructures and encourage non-motorized modes of travel among commuters. Many are implementing public bicycle share (PBS) schemes that are flexible transport solutions that allow commuters to rent bicycles for short period of time, thus greatly saving their money. Let’s take a brief look on how such programs work.
Working of Public Bicycle Share (PBS) Programs:
Although the concept of public bicycle sharing began in the 1960s in Europe, it only took off in the mid-2000s when municipal governments started affiliating some schemes in small college towns and center on university campuses. Public bicycle sharing (PBS) programs are highly preferred transportation alternatives among commuters these days and the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic has evidently accelerated the demand for bike sharing to greater extents. A bicycle share program has several defining features like station-based bicycles, payment systems, per-hour usage fees, membership and pass fees, and many others. Let’s die into these characteristics for better understanding of the scheme.
- Bicycles and Stations
The primary feature of a public bicycle share program, bikes are of standard shape, size, configuration, and color (usually bright). These bikes are usually different than regular ones based on bulkiness and have robust high-set frames. Speaking of stations, they are high-tech bike racks that have adjacent payment kiosks. Each station has a finite number of docks wherein bicycles are stored and locked.
- Payment Systems
For payments, commuters can either swipe their credit card or insert an electronic key that contains your credit card details at the kiosk to unlock the bike. What’s even more interesting is that you need not return a bike to the station where you got it; one can simply bring it to any station in the network where docking space is available to park and lock the bike.
- Membership and Bike Usage Fees
For many of you who didn’t know, public bike share programs have two different types of user fees and you must pay both. The first one is a flat-fee membership (for longer term) or passes (for shorter term) that grants access to bikes for a time period. One must remember that purchasing either a membership or a pass is mandatory before riding. The second is a usage fee that is calculated in increments of 30 or 60 minutes based on the amount of time you spent on the bicycle.
Advantages of PBS Schemes:
Such PBS programs have changed the current state of bicycling, attracting more individuals to own a membership and get some fresh air in a healthier way. These schemes also offer some benefits to the commuters. Here a few mentioned below.
- Cheaper than car rental
- Eliminates the need for buying personal bikes
- Healthier than driving
Disadvantages of PBS Schemes:
Surprisingly, these schemes have a downfall too that many of us are unaware of. Here are a few disadvantages mentioned below.
- Bike frames are very bulky
- PBS programs aren’t open for the entire year
- Safety helmets are not provided
- Dock shortages can be frustrating
Although public bicycle sharing programs are better transportation alternatives for many, it might not be a feasible solution for those residing farther from bike sharing stations. Whether PBS is more convenient or cheaper, some factors like local scheme’s pricing, your location, and the type of bicycle offered in such programs matter in the long run.
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