Urban Cycling

8 Reasons Bike-Sharing Schemes Are Much More Important Than You Think

Bike-sharing schemes benefits

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In today’s bustling urban landscapes, we’re facing problems.

Congestion, pollution, and public health crises, amongst other things.  But there’s hope.

Going beyond just a means of transport, did you know that bike-sharing schemes can actually go a long way in combatting many of these issues?

We look at the eight reasons bike-sharing schemes are much more important than you think and why we’re likely to see more of them in the future.

A woman making use of a bike-sharing scheme

1. Bike-Sharing Schemes Introduce People to Cycling

A top reason bike-sharing systems are so good is that they introduce people to cycling, which is easier said than done.

One of the main issues with cycling is getting people to try something out of their ordinary routine, which is especially problematic if it involves a car. 

Most sharing schemes have a low barrier to entry, usually a quick mobile sign-up, essentially offering a ‘trial’ period for potential cyclists. It allows people to try an alternative means of transport without spending a significant chunk of their income on a new bike.

In some ways, we also like to think of them as gateways. They allow people to get a taste for cycling, making it more likely that they’ll stick with it. 

A phone is used to sign up for a bike-sharing scheme

2. Bike-Sharing Schemes Are Accessible

But they don’t only introduce people to bikes; they also have benefits for long-term users.

In urban areas where space and storage are at a premium, rental bike schemes are removing a barrier to entry, meaning that people who couldn’t otherwise feasibly own a bike might have access to one. 

In addition, there’s the maintenance aspect. One huge deterrent to cycling is maintaining your bike, which can take time, cost money, and require some knowledge.

But with rental schemes, the operator covers these, meaning that the user can ‘get on and go’ without worrying about some of the less exciting aspects of bike ownership.

There’s also the dark side to consider. Using a bike-sharing scheme means you generally don’t have to worry too much about theft, which is a constant concern for bike owners in any urban environment. 

A man rents a bicycle from a bike-sharing scheme

3. Bike-Sharing Schemes Normalize Everyday Cycling

As bike rental schemes become integrated into the fabric of urban life, they contribute massively to a cultural shift towards bikes and away from cars.

Making cycling part of an everyday routine is one of the core challenges of creating a sustainable city, but rental schemes can help. The bottom line is that the more bikes there are, whether parked, stationed, or in use, the more normalized cycling is. 

Seeing people use them for commuting and leisure can help eliminate some of the stereotypes about cycling, making it more mainstream and acceptable as a mode of transport.

They also don’t require any specialized equipment. While nothing stops you from sporting your favorite spandex, rental bikes are usually ridden in everyday attire, like a work uniform or casual clothes. 

Bike-sharing is great for tourism

4. Bike-Sharing Schemes Promote Sustainable Tourism

Bike share schemes contribute a lot to promoting sustainable tourism in a city.

Rental bikes offer visitors an accessible, eco-friendly, and active form of transportation. They allow tourists to explore as if they were locals, and who doesn’t want to feel like that when visiting a new city?

But it’s not just cultural immersion; these schemes can mitigate against some of the polluting effects of tourism, particularly increased car use. Getting tourists out of cars can also massively alleviate congestion, especially during peak hours. 

It’s affordable, convenient, and healthy; what else can you ask for in a holiday?

Bike-sharing connectivity

5. Bike-Sharing Schemes And Last-Mile Connectivity

‘Last mile connectivity’ refers to the final leg of a journey, usually from a transport hub to the end destination.

Strategically placing bike-sharing stations at transport hubs can make it easier for commuters to travel the last stretch, especially if public transport does not serve their destination well. This subtle but seamless integration can help to overcome one of the great challenges of urban transportation.

In essence, it stretches the reach of public transport, making potentially hard-to-reach locations more accessible. The countrywide OV-fiets scheme in the Netherlands is a perfect example of this, where people can travel to a city by train and then hire a bike once they’ve arrived. 

A man booking a bike

6. Bike-Sharing Schemes Help With Data Collection For Urban Planning

It’s an unsung benefit, but did you know that bike-sharing schemes play a vital role in urban planning?

The schemes can track bike usage patterns, revealing popular routes, peak usage times, and high-demand areas. This data can help planners better understand city movement and identify areas that require infrastructural development.

It can also improve accessibility across the board. Identifying how well an area is served or connected and specific demographic needs can help design and build better cities that serve us all. Isn’t that democratic?

Bike-sharing health benefits

7. Bike-Sharing Schemes Have Several Health Benefits

The health benefits of cycling are sometimes so obvious that we forget about them.

Of course, cycling has physical benefits, like improved cardiovascular health and weight management, but it also has significant benefits for mental health

Even if we ride a bike to fill the gaps left by public transport, this can increase our focus and productivity and even help us sleep better!

But cycle schemes have one particular benefit: they can make cycling a part of our daily lives. Regular exercise helps us keep in tune with our bodies, and these small journeys by bike can energize and inspire us to check in on ourselves. 

Getting people onto bikes, even if it’s just for a few minutes a day, can help to improve their lives almost immeasurably. 

bike-sharing bicycle lanes

8. Bike-Sharing Schemes Promote Transport Equity

One of the best things about bike-sharing schemes is that they promote transport equity.

Almost always, they’re designed to be as simple to use as possible, with step-through frames and simple, adjustable seats to maximize comfort.

Even beyond the financial barriers they tackle, such as ownership, they offer a mode of transport that transcends barriers. Almost everyone can benefit from their convenience and affordability, contributing to a more inclusive urban life. 

But it doesn’t stop there. They can even increase access to job opportunities, allowing people to travel greater distances at a lower cost. This is especially true in areas with poorer public transport connections, as bike-sharing schemes could put more work opportunities in reach of those who need them.

The best thing of all, though, is that they reduce our dependence on cars. Every step away from private car ownership helps to make our cities safer, cleaner, and more liveable. 

These sharing schemes benefit the individuals who use them, and we can all reap the rewards as a society.

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