The Bikeshare Planning Guide

Information Technology
& Payment Mechanisms

Information technology (IT) forms the nervous system for any bikeshare system, connecting
bikes, stations, users, and control centers using software and data-transmission mechanisms.
In their service levels or permit requirements with operators, cities can require that bikeshare
IT systems protect user privacy, allow different types of passes to be purchased, and meet
other requirements.

In Atlanta, Relay Bikeshare bikes are equipped with a solar-powered keypad and RFID card reader, either of which can be used to unlock the bike. Source: Alta Planning + Design (Flickr CC)
Most station-based systems provide annual membership holders with a key fob, like this one for Citi Bike in New York City, to easily access the system. Source: Shinya Suzuki
(Flickr CC)

IT software needs to support the front end, or the public side, of the system, including registration
of new users, payment and subscriptions, general information about the system, and customer
data management. The front end may also include website portals and/or apps for smartphones.
On the back end, where the implementing agency and operator receive the information required to
run and manage the system, the software needs to support station and bike location monitoring,
rebalancing of bikes, defect and maintenance issues, billing, and customer data. The software should
also integrate the use of card technology (key fobs, RFID cards, etc.) for long-term users to quickly
check bikes in or out.

IT will need to serve two types of users: long-term users—who are usually registered members
and use the system with some frequency— and casual users, such as tourists, who use the
system infrequently or even just once. Long-term members are typically provided with an access
card or key fob, and can pay a membership fee to use the system for an unlimited number of trips.
Casual users are not usually given an access card. Most dockless bikes are equipped with a QR
code, which is scanned with the user’s smartphone to unlock the bike, eliminating the need for a
key fob. Some bikeshare bikes also have a keypad and/or RFID card reader onboard that can
unlock the bike, offering alternatives for people without smartphones.

Payment systems are very specific to the laws and payment options available in the country in
which the bikeshare operates. Different countries have different privacy regulations and laws
regarding payment, as well as different requirements for keeping customer information

Integrating bikeshare payment mechanisms into the payment systems used by other local
modes of transport should be a high priority (see subsection 1.2.1: Expanding Sustainable
Transport through Network Integration).

In addition to the fee to rent a bike, some systems charge casual users a refundable deposit
(or hold) on their credit card to identify the user and guarantee the return of the bicycle. While
several systems have started moving away from this practice, many still require a guarantee
before use to ensure that users will return bikes.

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

View Policy Brief