What is Bikeshare?

Credit: Capital Bikeshare

Credit: Capital Bikeshare

Bikeshare is an innovative transportation program, whereby system subscribers have access to bicycles through self-service kiosk locations around the community. The system is accessed through low-cost subscriptions ranging from a few dollars for one-day to annual memberships that generally cost less than a bicycle tune-up.

Bikeshare is ideal for short distance point-to-point trips providing subscribers access to bicycles at any self-serve bike station to use and return to any bike station within the system’s service area. Most systems allow subscribers to make as many trips as often as they like without additional charge provided they return the bicycles to a system station within a half hour. Operators generally begin to charge gradually increasing fees after the first half hour to discourage users from holding onto the bicycles when they are not being used, ensuring that bicycles are readily available for other system subscribers. In cities across the US, bike share systems have proven very popular and successful by giving residents and visitors alike a fast, affordable, easy to use transportation option that can make getting around town fun!

Credit: San Antonio B-cycle

Credit: San Antonio B-cycle

Characteristics of a bikeshare program:

  • It is oriented to short-term, point-to-point use. Most rides are only around 15-20 minutes and 1-3 miles.
  • The bicycle can be returned to any number of self-serve bike share stations, including the original check out location.
  • Generally, the bicycles are one style and easy to operate with simple components and adjustable seats.
  • The rental transaction is fully automated and there is no need for on-site staff.


Why bikeshare:

Bike sharing is good for cities in many ways. It delivers all the benefits of bicycling: by replacing car trips, it helps the environment, health, road congestion, the economy, parking, mobility, and traffic safety. In addition, bike sharing has unique advantages. It is more convenient and affordable than bike ownership for many residents; it helps overcome barriers to using a bike in a city, such as theft and storage; it generates revenue for municipalities and private companies; it creates new jobs; it motivates cities to improve bike infrastructure; it both connects to and relieves pressure on transit; it provides branding for a city; and it introduces new audiences to bicycling.

How much will bikeshare cost to use?

Credit: Deco Bike

Credit: Deco Bike

The Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham is in the process of assessing the possibility of implementing a bikeshare system in the Magic City , consequentially the costs are yet to be determined. However, the majority of American systems have a few different ridership options:

  • One-day memberships $5 to $10
  • Weekly memberships $15 to $25
  • One month memberships $25 to $50
  • One year memberships $50 to $100

Other existing programs have also allowed for the first 30-60 minutes of every ride to be typically free. If the user rides longer, a small fee is added to a rider’s total cost. However, every user may return the bike to any station and receive another free 30 minutes.

Credit: Nice Ride

Credit: Nice Ride

What forms of payment are accepted?
Most U.S. systems require a credit or debit card to become a member and check out a bike. This helps make riders more accountable for all ridership costs and prevents theft. Since this issue has presented some barriers for people who don’t have access to a credit/debit card, various systems around the U.S. have been implementing pilot programs to make their services more easily accessible to those without bank cards. The RPCGB will be evaluating different options to make bikeshare available to everyone.

Are theft and vandalism major concerns?
Existing bikeshare systems are built with security mechanisms that help deter theft or vandalism while withstanding year-round weather conditions. To this end, users must use a credit or debit card or their membership key to check out a bike, which creates user accountability. In a recent study, all existing systems reported less than 1% of bicycles vandalized or stolen.

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2 thoughts on “What is Bikeshare?

  1. Tina Pilgrim

    I have used bike shares in larger metro cities (Chicago, New York) and would love to use one here, however, we need to increase the amount of bike lanes and have a central based community to make accessibility easier for those who intend to use this program. The biggest issue with Birmingham as a community is that everything is compartmentalized and that no district or area of town is close to one another, which makes biking a bit of a challenge.

  2. Maria C Norena

    I would like to participate and contribute in anyway needed to this program – it is much needed.
    Please, I need to connect with the person leading this effort to join a meeting we are having on 10/25/2013.

    Maria C Norena
    Associate Director, Strategy & Innovation
    UAB Sustainable Smart Cities Research Center


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