For station-based systems, the ownership of the assets—primarily the stations, terminals,
docks, bicycles, and IT system—as well as the permanency of the assets in the streetscape, is
usually determined by the implementing agency. Different system assets can have various
owners, and the assets may be shared, transferred, or licensed. For example, the operator
might own, supply, and operate all of the infrastructure and the city provides the space for the
stations. This arrangement is the case for many nonprofit-run systems and most private
dockless operators, which source (or manufacture) their own model of bike and provide it to the
city in exchange for using public space and the public rights-of-way.
Control of the bikeshare system is closely bound to asset ownership: ownership ultimately
determines the quality of the system. If a city government cannot or does not want to make a
significant capital outlay, it often means ceding control over the quality (life-span) of the bikes
to their owner. In this case, the city should set strict permit requirements that ensure a baseline
asset and service quality.
Decisions about asset ownership and about who should make the initial investment should be
guided by the lifetime of the asset, as that typically guides the contracting period. For
bikeshare systems, the average life-span of a bike is three to five years, while stations typically
last more than 10 years. Bikes could be considered part of the operational costs instead of
assets, but this will have consequences for the financial model. Most agencies and companies
consider the bicycles as fixed assets.