Bike share programs have come a long way since their beginnings in the 1990s in Europe. The early days of these programs were defined by a rather large key and less-than-great design. Our ability to track metrics has also improved greatly, allowing operators to collect data on trip patterns and demographics. And a shift in infrastructure and design thinking from the Critical Mass movement has helped to cement bike share as a solid part of our urban transportation portfolios.
Bike sharing plans have evolved as well. Gone are the days of restricted service areas and severely limited pick-up and drop-off locations. Cities have come to understand that bikes-to-go need to be deployed evenly across all areas for the highest potential use of the bikes.
The first of the bike share programs to make this list is Hangzhou, China’s bike share system. In 2020, the city will deploy 175,000 bikes and 2,700 stations into operation, making it the world’s largest bike-share system in operation. This is the result of the success of Hangzhou’s program in its previous three iterations of bike share. Each iteration has grown in strength and scale, and the latest iteration is no exception. Hangzhou will include various sliding fee options that range from 0.5 RMB for every half an hour of use to 1 RMB for every hour of use. The city will also have a number of electric bikes and electric scooters within the next few years as well.
The second-largest city for bike share at the top of the cycle is Taiyuan, China. Taiyuan is known for having a very large bike-share system of its own, and it is not alone. For decades before the formation of modern-day bike-share programs, Chinese cities primarily used bicycles.
More recently, the Chinese government has begun facilitating large scale bike-share programs in many of its major cities. Several years ago, Taiyuan deployed 20,000 bikes and 800 stations into operation. More recently, Taiyuan has begun rolling out another 41,000 bikes and 1,000 stations. However, Taiyuan boasts durability in its design from the latter program due to the fact that it implemented an electric bike-share program from the ground up.
The third-largest city for bike share at the top of the cycle will also be the one with the most continued growth when all is said and done. Paris is known for having the largest public bike share system on the planet, which is also the largest overall system, with 20,00 bikes and 1,200 stations in operation today.
However, a bold plan for Paris’s bike share program allows it to be the number three city at the top of the cycle. In 2020, Paris will be deploying 24,000 bikes and 1,600 stations into operation. Should everything go as planned, the system will be nearly 30k bikes in 2021, making Paris’s system easily the second-largest system in the world at this point.
All three of the leading cities in the bike-sharing field for 2021 have one thing in common: they are leading bike-sharing cities in their respective countries of origin. These cities have come to understand the value of bike-sharing in terms of traffic impact and even environmental impact. Bike-sharing initiatives are giving more and more citizens of these cities a new tool with which they can get out on the roads and explore the great things that their cities have to offer.