Cycling Visionaries Awards – Project Details


Fourth-Generation Bikeshare System

Cities across the world are implementing public bikeshare systems as clean, efficient, inexpensive forms of transit. But studies show that features of current bikeshare systems limit their use to certain segments of the urban population. The proposed Fourth-generation Bikeshare System incorporates new elements into existing bikeshares to promote social equity and community connectedness.

Public bikeshare systems enable residents and visitors alike to cheaply rent bicycles for short trips, picking them up and dropping them off at stations located in central areas. They are inexpensive for city governments or external contractors to implement and maintain in comparison to other transport options, such as roads or rail. They serve as dependable revenue streams for city governments. And they have several positive externalities on the environment and on personal well-being. However, unequal uptake by different income, gender, and ethnic groups of third-generation bikeshares in cities as diverse as Mexico City, Paris, Washington, DC, and Hangzhou raises questions about social inclusion, especially because these systems are potentially most powerful for those who have the greatest need for affordable, efficient public transport.

The Fourth-Generation Bikeshare System (4GBS) will promote social inclusion by incorporating new features into the location and design of existing bikeshares. In the current system, stations are located in areas with the highest levels of income; users have to operate the system with bank cards; and limited social programming exists to promote cycling in underrepresented groups. As the 4GBS extends to more residential urban areas, stations will be located next to cultural, educational, and healthcare institutions and other community landmarks. Alternative payments systems, such as integrated public transport payment or pay-by-phone, will include discounted fees for targeted user groups (youth, the elderly, and lower-income people). And social programming will encourage new cyclists by teaching cycle safety, reducing fear of unsafe streets, and offering opportunities for bicycle trips beyond the normal commute.

Using the London Cycle Hire, London’s public bikeshare scheme, and Hackney, a deprived East London neighborhood, to demonstrate how the 4GBS might work reveals the system’s benefits. Stations would be located next to the hospital, the library, an academy, a public park, and a housing estate (affordable public housing). Payment consoles would enable the use of an Oyster Card (also used for Tube and bus) or pay-by-phone. And the local library, cycling association, bicycle repair shop, as well as other local governmental or non-governmental entities, would run social programs, such as bicycle maintenance workshops, local cycle tours, or apprenticeships with maintenance shops, to promote cycling.

As a result of these three types of intervention – physical, economic, social – the 4GBS can accomplish more than just the goal of inexpensive, efficient public transport. It can serve as a means for communities to become connected to the resources that surround them, as well as to other communities. For certain groups, this type of community connectivity is potentially transformational. It offers access to additional job and educational opportunities by expanding people’s travel horizons. It imposes little economic burden to users. And it supports healthier mental and physical lives.

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Julia Thayne

London, United Kingdom

Category: Urban Planning and Urban Design

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