Bike Sharing Programs Best Practices

OrangeRideRibbonCutting.jpgAugust 2013, Updated 2017

In March 2013, Oklahoma State University's Department of Parking and Transit Services launched OrangeRide; a new bicycle rental and repair program to promote convenient and affordable transportation on campus and throughout Stillwater (population 45,688 per 2010 Census) that complements the public transit system. So far it has been a huge success – there was a waitlist for rentals for the fall and plans to add 20+ more bikes to the fleet.  

The OrangeRide bike sharing program consists of 30 (at the time) bright orange bikes that can be rented by anyone (students, faculty, staff, and the general public) for $2/day, $8/week or $30/semester. Three bikes are reserved for weekly rentals only. Each rental comes with a bike lock and maintenance, and the renter is required to take a 10-minute online course. If a bike is stolen or seriously damaged, the renter is charged the replacement costs. Advertising space is available on the side of the bikes to offset some of the costs of the program, in order to keep the rental rates as low as possible.OrangeRide Public Maintenance.jpg

Another major component of the program is a shop that provides basic repair for rented and personally-owned bikes. The repair service is fee-based for personally-owned bikes, but outside of the shop OrangeRide also provides a maintenance area for bike owners to fill up their tires and do their own work. The bike shop is located at OSU's Multimodal Transportation Terminal and is open weekdays from 8am to 5pm. Student employees run the shop.

Students were also involved in the development of the program, providing ideas and feedback. One such idea was to have bike rental kiosks around campus and the city, similar to the bike sharing systems in Tulsa, OK, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis/St. Paul, MN, and many other cities. The University considered the idea, but the upfront cost would have been too much and they wanted to keep the rental rates low. They acknowledged that the program may evolve over time.

It is important to note that OrangeRide complements the OSU/Stillwater Community Transit System, which began in 2003 and currently provides ten deviated bus routes. Biking supports public transit by extending the catchment area of bus stops beyond walking range, solving the "first/last mile" problem. It is also a good way to get around on weekends and holidays when the buses are not in service. Public transit serves as a good alternative for cyclists during bad weather or in case of a mechanical issue. The bike racks on the front of the OSU/Stillwater buses further integrate these two modes of transportation, which together can reduce traffic congestion and CO2 emissions from less private vehicle use.

OrangeRide Bikes and Shop.jpgIn addition to the aforementioned benefits, OrangeRide supports OSU’s initiative to be America’s Healthiest Campus by encouraging physical activity. It will also hopefully decrease the number of abandoned bikes on campus, often left by students unable to take their bike with them at the end of the school year. For more information about OrangeRide and the OSU/Stillwater Community Transit System visit parking.okstate.edu.

The number of bike sharing programs in cities and on college campuses across the country and worldwide is growing at an impressive rate. Most of the systems in bigger cities have self-service bike kiosks throughout the city and are intended for very short-term use by residents as well as tourists. Programs like OrangeRide, with longer-term check-out options, are sometimes known as bike library models. These systems often have lower capital and operating costs because they generally are low-tech, have only one rental location, and result in fewer repair costs to the program, as riders have an incentive to keep the bike in good condition during their rental period.

Bike sharing systems may be administered by public entities, private nonprofits, or via public-private partnerships. As with most forms of public transportation, these systems generally cannot sustain themselves from user fees alone, thus requiring some funding from the government or from a charity. Various FTA grants have eligible bicycle uses, especially if the project increases access to public transit. The FHWA also provides funding and guidance for bicycle projects, including bike sharing programs.

The different bike sharing models all have pros and cons, and each program is unique because of a community's geography and demographics, for example. The programs all have the same goal, however – to increase bicycling because of the economic, social, environmental, and health benefits. And they are well suited for rural areas as well as big cities, as demonstrated by OrangeRide. See below for more information on how to get your community biking.

Click on the map below to find bikesharing programs by state.


via Bikemunk

Examples of programs in (mostly) rural and small urban areas:

A few resources about bike sharing programs and how to integrate bicycling and public transit:

Additional article sources:

Photo credit:  Wayne Harber, 2013