Modern urban mobility – “share and share a bike”

My employer was gracious enough to start an employee bike-sharing program several years ago as one way to improve employee heath and fitness, as well as lower insurance and transportation costs. Two bikes are parked for shared use near the main entrance to the building for 9-10 months of the year. The bikes were provided by MSU Bikes at Michigan State University, which is one of 36 American and four Canadian university-operated bike sharing/renting/selling/repair programs. Grand Valley State University, west of Grand Rapids is in the process of developing a program based on the MSU model. Below is a chart of campus bike-sharing programs in the United States and Canada.

UC – Davis Davis, CA 1971
UC – San Diego San Diego, CA 1973
UC – Santa Cruz Santa Cruz, CA 1986
Oberlin College Oberlin, OH 1986
Hampshire College Amherst, MA 1991
Wisconsin Madison, WI 1996
British Columbia Vancouver, BC 1998
Fresno State Fresno, CA 2001
McMaster Hamilton, ON 2002
Colorado Boulder, CO 2003
Harvard Cambridge, MA 2003
McGill Montreal, QB 2003
Michigan State East Lansing, MI 2003
Portland State Portland, OR 2004
Colgate Norwich, NY 2005
Toronto Toronto, ON 2005
Utah State Logan, UT 2005
Bowdoin College Brunswick, ME 2006
UW – Milwaukee Milwaukee, WI 2006
Maryland College Park, MD 2007
Sonoma State Rohnert Park, CA 2007
Ripon College Ripon, WI 2008
UC – Irvine Irvine, CA 2009
Washington State Pullman, WA 2009
Arizona Tucson, AZ ?
Berea College Berea, KY ?
UC – Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, CA ?
Cornell Ithaca, NY ?
Illinois- Chicago Chicago, IL ?
Indiana Bloomington, IN ?
Kentucky Lexington, KY ?
Minnesota Minneapolis, MN ?
Missouri – KC Kansas City, MO ?
Naropa Boulder, CO ?
Northland College Ashland, WI ?
Oregon Health & Science Portland, OR ?
Smith College Northampton, MA ?
St. Cloud State St. Cloud, MN ?
Stanford Palo Alto, CA ?
Tulane New Orleans, LA ?
Washington Seattle, WA ?
Grand Valley State Allendale, MI planned

SOURCES: campus sources

In 1994, Portland, Oregon became the first city in the United States to provide a free community-based bike-sharing service through its Yellow Bike Project. Similar programs were established in a few other American and Canadian cities, but a number of these early pioneers closed after a short period.

More recently, pay-as-you-ride bike sharing programs have been developed successfully across both countries. Many of sponsored and operated by individual communities, health organizations, or philanthropic entities. The largest bike sharing operation in the United States is B-cycle located in ten cities, while Bixi operates in the eastern Canadian cities of Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto, plus six other locations in the United States, England, and Australia. Alta Bicycle Share currently operates two systems in the USA.

B-cycle B-station Source:

The largest and most successful bike sharing program is in beautiful Montreal, Quebec, where Bixi provides more than 5,000 bicycles at 400+ locations across the metro area. Another large- scale effort is underway in Washington, DC, where the plan  The chart below lists  the community-based bike-sharing programs in the United States and Canada.

Portland, OR Yellow Bike Project 200 1994 – 1997
Tucson, AZ Orange Bike Project 80 1996 – 1996
Austin, TX Yellow Bike Project 4 1997 – present
Toronto, ON BikeShare 16 150 2001 – 2006
Edmonton, AB People’s Pedal 2005 – 2008
Washington, DC Smart Bike 2008 – 2010
Montreal, QB Bixi 405 5,050 2009 – present
Washington, DC Capital Bikeshare 116 1,100 2010 – present
Miami Beach, FL Deco Bike 73 740 2011 – present
Toronto, ON Bixi 80 1,000 2010 – present
Denver, CO B-cycle 51 510 2010 – present
Des Moines, IA B-cycle 4 2010 – present
Madison, WI B-cycle 24 2010 – present
Minneapolis, MN Nice Ride/Bixi 95 700 2010 – present
San Antonio, TX B-cycle 19 140 2011 – present
Ottawa, ON Bixi 10 100 2011 – present
Honolulu, HA B-cycle 2 2011 – present
Chicago, IL B-cycle 6 2011- present
Boulder, CO B-cycle 13 2011 – present
Omaha, NE B-cycle 3 2011 – present
Boston, MA Hubway/Bixi 61 610 2011 – present
Broward County, FL B-cycle 27 proposed
East Lansing, MI 5 20-30 2012
Lansing, MI proposed
New York City, NY NYC Bikeshare/Bixi 600 10,000 2012
Chattanooga, TN Bike Chattanooga 30 300 2012
Baltimore, MD B-cycle 30 250 2012

SOURCES: sources

Based on the chart above, most surprising are the cities where bike sharing programs have yet to be developed. Personally, I would have guessed that San Francisco, Seattle, and Vancouver were trend setters in this area. I am not sure why bike sharing programs have not been established in them, though it could be partially due to the number of bike riders/commuters with their own bikes.


These are exciting times for cycling advocates and recreational bicyclists alike. No longer do you feel like you have to lug your bike with you whenever you travel. Hopefully, the current model is sustainable over the long haul unlike earlier versions. Given the expansion of multi-city operations, it appears the pay-as-you-go option has legs much like Zipcars and similar urban transportation opportunities.

Bike sharing programs are just one of the exciting mobility options that are revolutionizing urban travel and urban planning. Zipcars, Segways, water taxis, motor scooters, entertainment-oriented transit, and, electric bikes, velomobiles, modern streetcars are others. Each is dramatically reshaping the urban landscape in its own way by:

• Bringing renewed pedestrian and bicycle life to once auto-dominated streets that knits cities together in ways unimaginable just a decade or two ago.

• Invoking political support and advocacy for complete street programs and safe routes to school.

• Lessening the need for car ownership and thereby lessening our carbon footprint.

• Increasing public acceptance of new transportation options.

• Reinvigorating once derelict shopping and entertainment districts.

• Adding more focus on non-motorized transportation in planning and design.

• Enhancing artistic expression through design competitions and similar events.

• Enlivening city street life into the wee hours of the morning.

• Reducing the need for new street and highway construction.

• Creating new entrepreneurial opportunities related to non-motorized transportation.

This entry was posted in bicycling, cities, climate change, environment, fun, health, land use, planning, transit, transportation and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Modern urban mobility – “share and share a bike”

  1. Steven Vance says:

    Check out this infographic, a visual comparison of bike sharing systems around the world.


  2. Tim Potter says:

    Nice piece Rick. Too bad you don’t take more open credit for the great research and reporting. Nice of you to mention MSU and give the stats on all the different university bike “sharing” programs out there in the wild. Sometime you might want to dig deeper into the different types of bike programs as there are many ways to go about skinning this cat. Some people call them Generation 1, 2 and 3 with MSU’s being a 1 (basically renting bikes out to people face to face, signing papers, putting down deposits, charging fees in advance for some period of time) with the 3 being the fancy self-serve systems like the one in Paris that made the biggest news a few years back where most everything the user experiences is self-serve and automated.

    For those interested in the topic I strongly believe (after 8 yrs. of running the MSU system and studying the information available about the automated systems) that how we’re doing it is much more financially sustainable UNLESS you can find some big financial backer of the Gen 3 system that keeps dumping lots of $$ into the system. At $4,000 – 5,000 PER bike (capital start-up costs, this doesn’t include operational costs) the Gen 3 systems still need staff, tools, a facility to maintain their bikes, bikes still get vandalized, stolen, etc., bikes have to be redistributed by truck and staff around a network of stations (who wants to find no bikes at a station or a bunch of full bays in a station when they want to return a bike and will be charged by the minute or hour until they return it?).

    The capital and operational costs of these systems is rarely if ever mentioned in the various reports and charts. The chart by Grid Chicago is a good example of that; I guess from the user perspective they’re only concerned about such things that the Grid Chicago guys have illustrated but from a decision maker’s (city, university, other organization considering making an investment into some bike program that will help get more “butts on bikes”) standpoint they leave much to be desired.

    Recycling abandoned or donated bikes and then loaning them out via a traditional bike-shop that also can offer full repairs and other bike related accessories and services (as MSU has done) is a lasting investment in a basic infrastructure that will last generations and is already paying off huge dividends in keeping thousands of bikes on the road that might have otherwise been abandoned for lack of convenient, affordable repair facilities.


  3. Maurice Cady says:

    “Wow, great article. Want more.”


  4. Pingback: A capital idea – bike sharing in Greater Lansing | Panethos

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