Contracts and permits with bikeshare operators should require them to share real-time data
with the city (ideally through an API key provided by the city) that will better inform systemlevel
operation, infrastructure, and integration with public transit. Furthermore, bikes with
onboard GPS not only help to facilitate more robust data on trip characteristics and ridership,
but it is also beneficial for locating “lost” bikes and performing maintenance. This data is
invaluable as cities and operators work to expand accessibility and efficiency of the bikeshare
system, and efforts should be made to make anonymized data publicly available for broader
analysis. Two-way data sharing between city transportation departments and mobility
providers will also be key toward eventually achieving mobility as a service (MAAS).
At the very least, cities should require real-time data for every bike in operation, including an
identification number, location, bike type (if more than one in operation), and fuel level (if
electric assist). This should be publicly available in a uniform format—the General Bikeshare
Feed Specification (GBFS) is recommended. In order to minimize the need for city staff to
standardize data prior to conducting compliance monitoring and enforcement, operators
should also be required to submit additional data such as trip duration, trip distance, origin and
destination locations, maintenance activities, collision reports, etc. using GBFS or another common
format. A common format will also make aggregation easier, so that trip planning apps can display
bike locations for all operators.
Use of private user data by city governments and operators should align with established
legislation on privacy and data security. Protection of user data is paramount, and
mechanisms should be put in place to anonymize and aggregate bikeshare user data to
minimize the potential to identify individual users based on their usage habits.
Private bikeshare operators are often hesitant to share data on trip history and users with the
city for fear of opening the door to competitors being able to access their data. For example, in
the state of Washington in the United States, city departments of transportation have lower
standing to deny freedom of infor mation act (FOIA) requests than, say, a university, which has
a more protected standing. This potential lack of data protection can be problematic not only
for private operators worried about competitors submitting public data requests, but also for
users of the system who may be at risk of being identified based on their travel patterns.
Seattle has had success allowing dockless bikeshare companies to submit their data to the
University of Washington’s Transportation Data Collaborative, which the Seattle Department of
Transportation has access to at any time but does not physically house on its servers.
To improve service delivery, cities may also require operators to send out an annual or
biannual user survey as another method for collecting data on how, where, and by whom
bikeshare is used. Surveying may also help to identify and address barriers to using bikeshare,
and cities and operators should work together to survey non-bikeshare members in addition to
members. Capital Bikeshare’s biannual user survey sheds light on the demographics of its user
base, as well as offering users the chance to suggest locations for new stations. San Francisco
requires, as part of the data-sharing requirements in its permitting process, dockless
operators to distribute an annual survey to customers. Bikeplus, UK publishes an annual
survey of users from 18 Hourbike, nextbike and Smoove/ITS bikeshare schemes across the
United Kingdom, which analyzes health benefits and travel choice impacts.