The Bikeshare Planning Guide

Understanding the Current
Bikeshare Landscape


ITDP’s first edition of the Bikeshare Planning Guide was released in 2013—just as several innovative, game-changing technologies were beginning to hit the bikeshare scene. Several of these developments, introduced below but covered in detail throughout the Guide, have challenged existing financing, pricing, and operating models, catapulting bikeshare toward a new generation.

This video, shot by Streetfilms, centers on the bikeshare boom of 2013 and highlights ITDP’s first edition of the Bikeshare Planning guide.

In Paris, dockless bikes from multiple private operators have become popular, and supplement the city’s station-based system, Velib’. Source: Carlos F. Pardo

Dockless bikeshare

While not a wholly new concept in bikeshare—European transit-centered bikeshare systems have operated using a stationless model for years—a new generation of dockless (also called stationless or “free-floating”) systems exploded on the scene in 2015, thanks to dozens of private start-up companies that expanded rapidly across China and in cities around the world. The new dockless model offers a more flexible bikeshare experience because users are able to start and end their trip at their true origin and destination without having to find a nearby station. Dockless bikes are equipped with global positioning systems (GPS), and are found, rented, and locked through the dockless operator’s smartphone app. These systems have the potential to produce robust travel data generated from the on-bike GPS.

ITDP released a policy brief in 2018 that provides an outcome-oriented framework for regulating dockless bikeshare in cities.

Per-trip pricing

Annual membership and 24-hour passes have been a hallmark of bikeshare pricing schemes since their inception, but few systems offered users a more flexible, less expensive, per-trip price. This fare option—usually the equivalent of US$3 or less, and sometimes considerably less—is now offered by both traditional station-based systems (including Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC, BIKETOWN in Portland, OR, and BIXI in Montreal) and dockless systems. Similar in price to a trip on public transit, the per-trip fare is intended to generate trips on bikeshare that otherwise would have been made walking, or using transportation network companies (TNCs).

Mexico City’s successful Ecobici bikeshare system added pedal assist e-bikes and electric charging stations in early 2018. Source: Enrique Abe, Mexico City´s Ministry of Environment Department of Cycling Culture and Infrastructure

Pedal assist e-bikes

These bikes, also called pedal electric (“ped-elec”), provide a battery-powered boost to riders as they pedal. Pedal assist bikes are particularly ideal for bikeshare because of their otherwise high upfront cost to users, and they can improve user comfort by reducing often-cited barriers to cycling such as fatigue, sweating, and longer-distance or hilly trips. Maximum speeds for pedal assist e-bikes are usually capped at around 30 kph (18 mph).

Hybrid bikeshare systems

In an effort to embrace new technological developments, while still offering users a bikeshare system they understand and feel comfortable using, several cities integrate different types of bikes and docking options into one system. For example, Barcelona’s Bicing and Milan’s BikeMi offer users access to smart dock bikes as well as pedal assist e-bikes. Portland’s BIKETOWN and Atlanta’s Relay systems offer a combined station-based and stationless model, enabling users to lock their bike to a rack away from a station, but within a designated hub, to end their trip.

Helsinki’s transit agency operates its bikeshare system, City Bikes. Users can already unlock a bike using their transit card, and City Bikes will soon be available in mobility as a service packages. Source: Michael W. Andersen (Flickr CC)

Transit integration

Several cities have made efforts to improve the ease and convenience of multi-modal trip making by better integrating their bikeshare system with public transit. Operated by the transit agency, Los Angeles Metro Bikeshare allows users to check out a bike using their Transit Access Pass (TAP) card. Helsinki’s City Bikes system will be integrated into the mobility as a service (MaaS) Whim app, which offers streamlined access to taxis, public transport, shared vehicles, and, soon, bikeshare through pay-as-you-go or monthly plans.[1]



Over the past five years, global bikeshare growth has been astounding. Over 1,600 bikeshare systems—station-based, dockless, and hybrid systems, both publicly and privately operated— are now operating worldwide, up from about 700 systems in 2013.[2] And more systems are launching every day as cities understand the opportunity bikeshare presents to shift travelers away from private car use, and to help meet broader climate, health, economic and other goals.

In Guangzhou and other Chinese cities, the scale of dockless bikeshare has contributed to a reduction in private car trips. Source: ITDP China

China | Bikeshare systems in China have seen explosive growth since 2008. For example, Hangzhou, which launched its bikeshare in 2008 with 4,900 bikes, expanded its system to 50,000 bikes by 2009. By 2016, Hangzhou’s system offered more than 97,000 bikes used by over 300,000 people every day—that’s 113 million trips per year. And the city plans to expand the system to 175,000 bicycles by 2020.[3] The story is similar in other major Chinese cities, especially since the paradigm-shifting rise of dockless bikeshare swept the country. This technology-focused, on-demand model for providing bikeshare has generated the largest expansion of equipment, rides, users, and mode shift to cycling the world has ever seen. Shanghai reports having one million dockless bicycles on the street, followed closely by Guangzhou with another 800,000, all operated by dozens of private companies vying for market share. In response to challenges that have arisen from this model including piles of bikes and disorderly sidewalks and public spaces, many local governments have developed varying forms of regulation.

Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC was one of North America’s earliest bikeshare systems. The system is still well-used by residents and tourists, even after the introduction of dockless bikeshare to the city in September 2017. Source: Kyle Gradinger (Flickr CC)

North America | In 2016, riders of bikeshare systems in the United States took over 28 million trips, which falls just slightly under the 31 million trips taken across the entire Amtrak passenger rail system that same year. Ridership in North America has grown sharply since 2012, with the introduction of dozens of new bikeshare systems each year. Since 2016, the majority of new bikeshare systems in North America have utilized smartbikes (either hub-centric or stationless).[4] As bikeshare continues to evolve, new operating systems have begun to emerge across the US in particular, most notably using stationless, dockless bikes. In 2017, several dockless operators deployed bikes in the United States, as well as in China, Great Britain, Italy, Singapore, Australia and other locations. Notably, operators offering pedal assist e-bikeshare fleets have also launched in several North American cities as of 2017.

Recognizing that the topography of the city could be challenging for casual bike riders, the city of Quito added 300 pedal assist e-bikes to its BiciQuito bikeshare system in March 2016. Source: Carlos Felipe Pardo

Latin America | Various Latin American cities have improved and expanded their bikeshare systems in the past five years. For example, Medellín, Buenos Aires, Santiago, and Quito transitioned from second- to third-generation systems, and Quito implemented pedal assist e-bikes. With a new operator (Tembici) and, in some cases, equipment, several systems in Brazil, including Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo have improved their planning and service delivery in an effort to increase usage and performance. Currently, Mexico City’s Ecobici is the largest bikeshare system in the region, with more than 45 million trips since 2010 and more than 200,000 users. The system added pedal assist e-bikes in early 2018. Also in 2018, dockless bikeshare launched for the first time in Latin America in Santiago and Mexico City.

A woman in Pune rides a PEDL dockless bike, available through Indian-based carshare company, Zoomcar. Source: Santhosh Loganaathan

India | India’s national Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs launched the Smart Cities Mission, an urban renewal and retrofitting program that promotes mixed land use and compact development, walking and cycling. The Mission promotes bikeshare as an option for first-last- kilometer connectivity and encouraged cities like Bhopal, Mysuru and Pune to implement bikeshare. Several more Indian cities have bikeshare systems in the works. Bhopal and Mysuru’s systems are single-operator station-based systems, while Pune’s is dockless with multiple operators.

Marrakech’s 10 station bikeshare system was the first in Africa. Source: Chris Kost

Africa | Africa’s first bikeshare program—Medina Bikes—launched in 2016 in Marrakesh alongside the 22nd Conference of the Parties (COP22) climate conference as part of a broader portfolio of actions aimed at reducing Morocco’s fossil fuel consumption.[5] A year later, the University of Nairobi implemented a system that features one central station with 20 bikes and is geared toward students and staff traveling around campus.[6] Cycling has gained popularity in Cairo, as well, where the government, in coordination with UN-Habitat, approved a three-year funding scheme for bikeshare in July 2017.[7]



Emerging innovations and technologies in transportation have generated new mobility opportunities, namely, eliminating barriers to the success of shared-use transportation. A key piece in the sustainable transportation puzzle, shared-use transportation (defined as mobility assets that are shared amongst users such as bikeshareing, ride hailing, microtransit, etc.) is becoming increasingly important for cities as they work to reduce private vehicle travel and reclaim public space for people.

Goal-setting can help to integrate bikeshare into a city’s economic development, sustainability, health, and other efforts already being undertaken. For example, bikeshare can plug into climate-related goals as a tool to reduce vehicle kilometers traveled (VKT) and single-occupancy vehicle trips. Or it can contribute to economic development goals by attracting both tourists and businesses, offering an affordable, sustainable transportation mode for visitors to explore the city and as a quality of life benefit for potential employees. Identifying goals for bikeshare will help cities decide which policies to prioritize, and how best to track progress and measure success. Data generated from bikeshare trips will help inform this evaluation, and collecting it from operators will be paramount for cities going forward.

This Planning Guide encourages vision- and outcome-oriented policies instead of identifying specific operating or business models. This allows for greater flexibility in shared mobility policy solutions as contexts, opportunities, and technologies evolve.

Interested in learning more about optimizing dockless bikeshare for cities? Check out ITDP's dockless bikeshare policy brief.

View Policy Brief