BikeShare: Lessons from the inaugural BikePlus conference

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The inaugural UK bike share conference was held on 5th October in Oxford and hosted by BikePlus, an umbrella bike share organisation that promotes, and shares knowledge and best practice of, bike sharing.

So what is ‘bike share’? When I told my mum (who by the way is a keen cyclist) that I was attending the conference her response was, “I’ve heard of car sharing, I’m just not sure how you’ll get multiple people on a bike.”!

Bike share is perhaps more commonly known (to transport professionals at least) as the service in which bicycles are made available for shared use on a short term basis. There are many models of bike share available throughout the UK including: traditional on-street docking station (Boris Bikes), staff bike share, rail station bike share and more recently, Smart Lock bike share. The conference aimed to share knowledge and lessons from a multitude of schemes which are popping up across UK cities.

Oxford University Sustainability Manager, Adam Bows introduced OxonBike, one of the first schemes in the UK to introduce e-bikes as part of their bike share fleet. The university is based across several sites in the city which represent a number of challenges for staff and students. It’s estimated that 725,000 business trips between sites are made each year, with distances of up to 5 miles. The introduction of e-bikes was particularly important at a couple of sites where it is seen the topography has been a barrier in preventing cycling.

Lucy Yu, Head of Mobility as a Service at the Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles mentioned some new apps currently coming to market. The most successful are ride and car sharing services. An example is OneLane, combining child care and travel that promotes its services as ‘Uber for kids’. Another example is App-Bike, a smart lock based bike sharing system, which doesn’t need a docking station.

Lucy also talked about ways to change travel behaviour and how disruption forces change. For instance, TfL’s data has shown tube strikes force people to take different routes selecting alternative lines and different modes. One framework to encourage people to switch is the “EAST” model (Easy, Attractive, Social and Timely). When applied, the bike share could be:

  • Easy & Social: Keyless lock unlocked by mobile and touch screen, which also allows you to share your bike with people within your network
  • Attractive: provide membership as a perk. Can bike share schemes make it easy to take out corporate membership?
  • Social: Various ways from Strava to the BeeLine route finder on handlebars
  • Timely: Gamification could help with the redistribution of bikes (bike users could ‘earn points’ for relocating bike to a high demand docking station. These points could be then exchanged for a rent-free bike ride (target group will be frequent users of the scheme, e. g. regular commuters) or local shop discount vouchers (target group would be tourist/occasional visitors)

David Eddington from TfL was able to provide an insight into the UK’s most popular bike share scheme - London’s Santander Cycles or perhaps as more popularly known, Boris Bikes! The mayor (no longer Boris) recently released news regarding the upgraded Santander Cycles that are due to be introduced in the next two years by provider Serco; the new models promise to be lighter and smaller following feedback the current stock are somewhat heavy, slow and difficult to manoeuvre.

TfL have also introduced two new business accounts for membership of the scheme which has been particularly popular with estate agents in London, who are classic large trip generators. There is still hope to integrate the bike share scheme with other forms of TfL travel; as we move towards a world of Mobility as a Service it is particularly important that bike share companies make their products accessible.

One of the hot topics of the day was the issue of redistributing bikes. Notoriously, costs of redistributing are high and represent a major challenge for themselves and other bike share schemes. Increasingly, companies such as Stage Intelligence are using Artificial Intelligence to manage bike share schemes; this can predict and respond to on-demand factors such as large events, holidays, weather and seasonality. This removes the need for decision making and manual processes in redistributing.

The conference was insightful, engaging and thought-provoking and provided me with a number of new words to ‘Google’ and learn about (e. g. The Power of Habit, BeeLine, Strava, Lattis lock, vision zero).

 

Article written by Simon Le Good and Lucie Chuchmakova