The Do’s and Don’ts of Bike Sharing

The need for innovative bike share systems has never been greater. Cities are on a mission to modernize urban mobility to keep pace with the public’s shift away from personal vehicles and toward shared, on-demand transportation. However, bike sharing’s tremendous growth and evolution — most notably the recent shift from dock-based to dockless systems — has not exactly been a smooth ride.

Over the past few years, we’ve seen some cities race headfirst toward a dockless model that took China by storm: blighting streetscapes with a flood of unlocked, cheap bikes to gain market share. But as bikes began piling up, floating away, alighting on telephone poles, and blocking rights of way, cities like Dallas are beginning to question whether this model actually makes sense for American cities.

At Zagster, we’ve been in the bike share game long enough to know this model isn’t sustainable. Informed by a decade of partnering with cities and operating more than 200 bike shares across the US, we know what works and what doesn’t when it comes to bike share in America. Given it’s the start of a new year, when many cities are considering dockless bike sharing, we felt that now was a good time to share a brief list of the most common do’s and don’ts.

If this list resonates with you, be sure to get in touch to learn more about how Zagster and our new dockless network, Pace, can help your city modernize its transportation options without any of the drawbacks of first-gen dockless models.


Build a completely station-based system. Entirely station-based systems are inherently inflexible, require tremendous capital up front and incur enormous operating costs at taxpayer expense. While they put bike share on the map, station-based or ‘dock-based’ bike sharing systems are showing their age and stage.

Go “completely dockless.” While convenient for riders and cheap to execute, first-gen dockless models from companies without much experience in bike sharing have serious drawbacks. With no locks to ensure safe parking, completely dockless or "lockless" bike shares sprawl haphazardly across sidewalks and streets, public parks and even in trees. Second-gen models like Pace and Jump deliver on the benefits of dockless bike sharing, but without the drawbacks. (Check out our video to learn how.)

Ask for forgiveness instead of permission. While it’s easy for companies to scatter 300 bikes across a city and walk away, this approach hinders ridership and risks souring officials and policymakers on bike sharing. Eliminating the dock from bike sharing systems doesn’t eliminate the need to build great partnerships with cities and local businesses.


Lay early groundwork. To create vibrant, sustainable bike shares, providers should prime community members for the new service to ensure the bike share debuts in a favorable environment from day one. Build a teaser program. Get bike advocacy groups involved. And do a proper launch event with city officials to get things off on the right foot.

Build real partnerships. Bike share providers must engage government officials, local businesses and community members to understand and adequately address their needs, and fill any gaps in the current transportation system. All transit systems should integrate with each other, including bike share.

Stay flexible. As cities change, bike share programs should evolve as well. From installing more public bike racks, to investing in bike lanes and rider education, partnerships that can meet the changing needs of cities are essential for long term bike sharing success.

For a deeper dive on this subject, check out this recent op-ed in Route Fifty by Zagster CEO Tim Ericson.

How to convince student governments to support bike sharing

Campus bike shares are perfect fits for the transportation habits of today's college students. And in planning a new program, securing student support is a crucial step toward bike-share adoption. We're here to help toward that end, with a sample message students can bring their governing bodies to get the wheel rolling toward impactful new Zagster programs.

Dear Student Government,

Students need affordable, reliable and convenient options to get around. They also want ways to stay fit, and they care about making campus more sustainable.

Bike sharing is a perfect tool to achieve all those goals — and more.

Bike shares are perfectly suited to making the kind of short trips native to a campus environment, and they're perfect for forming last-mile connectors between on- and off-campus destinations. They're incredibly cost-effective, too. Owning and using a car throughout a four-year enrollment adds, on average, $20,000 to college's overall cost, according to Forbes. In contrast, students can spend on average less than $50 per year on bike sharing.

 Zagster launches at the University of Maryland

Zagster launches at the University of Maryland

Plus, bike shares are a great way to fight the Freshman 15.

Bike shares are great investment from the college's perspective, too. It can cost up to $40,000 to build a single parking space in a new structured garage. An entire bike-share fleet can cost less than that — while serving far more users per day.

Meanwhile, bike trips can ease the strain on our existing transit services, making the entire transit system work more efficiently for everyone on campus.

College can be difficult, confusing and expensive. Bike sharing doesn't have to be.

So when it comes to implementation, consider Zagster, a bike sharing company operating more than 140 full-service bike shares across North America, including some two-dozen on college campuses — more than every other provider combined.

 Station installation at Dartmouth College

Station installation at Dartmouth College

With Zagster, everything is included — hardware, software, maintenance and marketing — to minimize costs and make bike sharing as hassle-free as possible. With Zagster, we'll get low, predictable costs, an all-inclusive business model, cutting-edge technology, and a consistent level of service that leaves school administrators wondering why they didn’t do this sooner.

By bringing bike-sharing to our university, you can make a significant improvement to campus. And because bike sharing is a tangible investment, you'll leave a lasting, visible impact on campus you can be proud of long beyond graduation.

Thank you and remember; life’s better on a bike!

To learn more about planning a campus bike share, check out our step-by-step guide to getting rolling.


How to save time and money with a bike-share pilot program

A bike-share pilot program with Zagster produces real-life feedback about bike sharing’s viability in a given community. A traditional feasibility study offers only estimates on that front. And yet, the two cost comparable amounts.

So why would cities spend tens of thousands of dollars on theoretical — rather than actual — data?

That question is on our minds with the news that Grand Rapids, Mich., plans to spend $100,000 for a feasibility study on bike sharing. Though that price tag may sound steep, it’s on par with the cost of feasibility studies in other mid-sized cities around the nation.

For the same cost, a community could launch a 50-bike Zagster pilot program to see how bike sharing works not just in theory, but in practice, with real users delivering real insight into everything from ridership patterns and adoption metrics to hardware functionality and system satisfaction. What’s more, a Zagster pilot program comes backed by the same sort of statistical analysis used in those expensive feasibility studies. The only difference: It comes at no additional cost.

That’s because Zagster offers feasibility analyses as a free service to communities considering bike shares. There are no costs, no strings and no contracts. Interested cities aren’t even obligated to move forward with bike sharing. The feasibility analysis is meant solely as a planning tool to arm decision-makers with the information necessary to determine if bike sharing makes sense for their communities, and if so, how to move forward with implementation.

Here’s how it works. With backgrounds in civil engineering and transportation planning, Zagster’s consultants compile custom reports detailing information vital to anyone interested in building a bike share. That includes an overview of the bike-share industry in general — the available technologies and providers, system launch and expansion trends, and so on — as well as a comparative analysis of your city to similar communities with successful bike shares. It also includes a thorough review of your city and its potential demand for bike sharing, complete with a plan outlining the scope, scale and implementation phases of that potential program.

As a free service, this feasibility analysis is a no-cost, no-risk proposition for municipal planners. If it leads to the nixing of bike-share plans, cities will have saved themselves tens of thousands of dollars by obviating full-blown feasibility studies. And if it encourages cities to move ahead with bike sharing, cities will be better prepared to take the next steps to achieve their transportation goals.

None of this is to say feasibility studies have no place in transportation planning. For megacities, where the requisite scale of new services and infrastructure projects makes small pilot programs unrealistic, soup to nuts feasibility studies are important planning tools. But for everyone else, a pilot program paired with a lighter — yet still comprehensive — feasibility analysis can provide far greater value.

Our Princeton University program is a perfect case study of this. One year after launching as a 10-bike pilot, the program has grown to include more than 100 bikes — a tenfold expansion based not on abstract data but rather on a real-life study of the demand for and value of bike sharing.

It’s a no-lose opportunity for those interested in building great bike shares. So if you’re a decision-maker wondering if a free Zagster feasibility analysis can help you, ask yourself: What do you have to lose?

Complete the form below to request a free analysis for your community. 

Why Zagster is enthralling city planners in cities of all sizes

They say everything's bigger in Texas. But when it comes to bike sharing, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Cities like Brownsville or Corpus Christi would never build rail networks as big as the one serving Dallas — so why would they build bike shares on the scope and scale of a big-city system?

That’s the message Zagster brought last week to the annual conference of the Association of Metropolitan Planning Organizations. There, we spoke with transportation planners, municipal officials and transit advocates from across the country who are eager to bring bike sharing to their communities but unsure how the traditionally big-city amenity could work for them. It’s a refrain we often hear, and it’s a misconception we’re happy to put to rest.

With modular infrastructure, nimble hardware and a business model that minimizes the cost and complexity of bike sharing, Zagster makes bike sharing work for communities of all sizes. It’s why Zagster programs are going strong in environments ranging from real estate properties with dozens of tenants to cities with 500,000+ residents. And it’s why we’re confident we can provide a stable and scalable solution for ever more cities.

For more information on how Zagster makes bike sharing work in smaller cities, check out a case study of our program in Carmel, Ind.

Zagster’s Fort Collins bike share is great — and growing

Zagster’s Fort Collins bike share is off to a fantastic start.

Backed by a host of local sponsorships, the program began in April with 79 bikes and a hope to grow. And indeed, that goal is already coming to fruition. Due to robust usage and strong demand, Zagster will in early October deploy even more bikes in Fort Collins to grow the program by about 25 percent.

This kind of community-sponsored growth is one of the best benefits of Zagster’s programs, and it’s precisely what Fort Collins envisioned when they partnered with us to bring bike sharing to the city. So though Fort Collins was already one of the best cycling cities in America before Zagster came to town, Zagster’s bike share is helping to, as Bike Fort Collins President Bruce Henderson put it, “further Fort Collins to the next level."

So how is Zagster making this bike-loving city even better? We’ll let Fort Collins’ bike experts explain, in their own words, in the video case study below.

Bike Share For Properties: The Significant Upside of a Distinctive Amenity

For cities, bike shares are transportation infrasturure. For real estate properties, however, bike shares are more than that — they’re unique amenities that add enormous value and entice great tenants.

That’s because with transportation preferences shifting nationally toward shared and on-demand modes of transit — a majority of all Americans, and two-thirds of millennials, prefer to live and work where they don’t often need personal cars — bike shares are increasingly desirable add-ons for commercial and residential properties alike.

So what do property-based bike shares look like? And how can interested real estate owners and managers bring these alluring amenities to their properties?

For the answers to those questions and more, check out Zagster’s recent webinar on the subject. You’ll hear from Bradley Ericson, Zagster’s sales manager for real estate, as he walks through all the basics of bike sharing for properties and how Zagster designs and operates impactful programs for properties nationwide.

You can access a recording of the webinar, as well as supplemental informational materials, by using the form embedded below.

Introducing the New and Improved Zagster Mobile App

The best part of bike sharing is riding a bike; we just made that easier.

We’re constantly upgrading our products and services to ensure our customers have the best possible bike shares. And today, we’re affirming that commitment with the launch of the Zagster mobile app version 2.0.

With additional features and a redesigned interface, the new version of the app improves the entire experience of riding with Zagster. Enhanced instructions simplify the processes of enrolling in Zagster programs and borrowing bikes, while a slick new skin streamlines navigation to make the app more intuitive and user-friendly than ever.

Users can join Zagster in seconds:

Search for and join a bike share system: 


A fast interface makes checkout a breeze:

This is the first significant overhaul of the Zagster mobile app — but it won’t be the last. And that’s a good thing!

At Zagster, we treat bike sharing as a service — not a product. We're always making iterative improvements based on user feedback and delivering regular upgrades to all our customers at no additional cost.

These updates are something that no other bike share provider does, and they are one of the main reasons why Zagster is the nationwide leader in bike sharing.

So head here to download the new app, and then get out there and ride!

Zagster Brings Accessible Bike Share to Westminster, Colorado

Accessible bike share, powered by Zagster

What does an accessible bike share look like? It looks a lot like what Zagster is launching today in, Westminster, Colorado.

Though our standard cruiser bikes work well for most of the people in the communities we serve, there are still some would-be bike-share users who are physically unable to ride them. So in addition to the 32 cruisers we’ve deployed to Westminster, the Westminster bike share also features eight accessible bikes — three handcycles and five cargo trikes — to ensure a more equitable, accessible bike share for all.

Zagster is one of the only bike-share providers even capable of offering this kind of accessible bike share. Thanks to our nimble and flexible hardware, we can deploy trikes, handcycles, and tandems to our stations to meet our partners’ unique demands. As a result, we boast accessible bikes and accessible bike shares all over the country.

Most recently, we earned high praise for bringing an accessible bike share to College Park, Maryland. In the words of one satisfied user of that bike share: “To suddenly have access to a new technology that so many others take for granted is akin to being granted a door to another world.”

The process for borrowing these accessible bikes is no different from how riders check out any other bikes in our fleet. In terms of utilization, however, the accessible bikes offer a wider range of uses for a wider pool of users.

“Just as we believe all communities can enjoy the benefits of bike sharing, we believe everyone within those communities can enjoy the benefits of bike sharing,” said Timothy Ericson, Zagster co-founder and CEO. “Westminster is a testament to both those ideals. We are thrilled to help make bike sharing a reality in this great city.”

The goal of all bike shares is to make cycling accessible. At Zagster, our goal is to make bike sharing itself more accessible. The launch of an accessible bike share is Westminster is just one more example of how we’re working to realize that goal of bike sharing for all.

To learn more about Westminster's accessible bike share, head here.

To read the full press release about Westminster's accessible bike share, head here.

Zagster Launches Pedal Corvallis Bike Share


Want to pedal Corvallis, Oregon, but don’t have a bike? Then you’re in luck, because starting today, Zagster is making 33 cruiser bikes and two trikes available for everyone in the Corvallis community to ride wherever they want, as long as they want. The new bike share — aptly named Pedal Corvallis — is a joint partnership between the Oregon Cascades West Council of Governments (OCWCOG), the InterCommunity Health Network Community Care Organization, and Zagster. And though Pedal Corvallis is just getting rolling, OCWCOG is already exploring ways to expand the system through collaborative sponsorships to build it into an even bigger, better bike share to meet the anticipated demand.

“In a community that already values biking, this will only enhance our community’s commitment to a healthy lifestyle and environment for everyone,” said Corvallis Mayor Biff Taber.

Indeed, Corvallis is a truly bike-friendly city, which makes it a perfect place for a bike share like Pedal Corvallis. The city boasts a rare Gold-level ranking with the League of American Bicyclists, and it features 46 miles of bike lanes that cover 98 percent of its arterial roads. It’s no surprise then that a recent survey found that roughly one-quarter of residents regularly commute by bike — the highest percentage in the nation.

We envision Pedal Corvallis boosting ridership even higher by making it easy, affordable, and convenient for everyone in Corvallis to get on a bike and, well, pedal Corvallis. Life’s better on a bike. And with Pedal Corvallis, the City of Corvallis — already a great cycling city — is now even better, too.

For more information about Pedal Corvallis, head here.

To read the full Pedal Corvallis press release, head here.

Successful Local Bike Sharing: A Q&A With Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard

Small-scale, local bike sharing works — and our system in Carmel, Indiana, is a perfect example of how to do it right.

Read the case study: Successful local bike sharing in Carmel

Which is why we were proud to participate in this year’s annual Conference of Mayors, held June 24-26 in Indianapolis, with an opening night ceremony in Carmel. Hundreds of mayors from across the country had the opportunity to see local bike sharing in action as we staffed a special bike-share station at that kickoff gala. The station offered up free rides to interested attendees, and served as a tangible indicator of the positive impact local bike sharing can have in any community.

But don’t just take our word for it: Here’s what Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard had to say about local bike sharing in Carmel when we spoke with him earlier this year.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and length

Zagster: You personally use Zagster a lot. What do you think of it?

Mayor Brainard: I love Zagster. We need to expand, work harder on getting the business community to install stations, but we've got a good base and it's been a great product for us. The bikes are well-built, the technology works well and the public loves it.

Z: Why did you decide to partner with Zagster?

MB: We looked at many providers of bicycles and bicycle-share programs. What is unique about Zagster is the fact that the city doesn't have to have the huge capital investment with your system. We can work to install stations and grow the system in a partnership with community partners and not have the entire burden be on taxpayers.

Z: Did that make it more appealing than other bike-sharing options?

MB: Yes. Not only you can grow it incrementally, but you can grow it incrementally with partners. Emphasis on the partners — community partners, businesses, churches, neighborhood associations. Any institution in the city could add bike stations.

Z: What has been the program's biggest success to date?

MB: The amount of usage. We've had a lot of usage, a lot a bike riding. It's worked out very well for us. Z: How has Zagster improved the lives of Carmel's residents?

MB: We all need to get more active in this country. We have designed cities over the last 60 - 70 years where people aren't required to walk or get any exercise on a daily basis. We're trying to change that in this city by going back to the way we designed cities for centuries before the car came along. A bike share is one of many components to make a city like ours work well.

Z: How has local bike sharing impacted Carmel’s economy?

MB: Zagster has helped our economy in many ways. It’s made it a more fun place to visit, made it a better place for millennials that don't want to necessarily own a car and want to be able to have alternative transportation options. It's just made it more fun for our residents.

Everything we do to raise the quality of life, including creating a bike share with a great company like Zagster, helps make this a more competitive place. A better place.
— Mayor Jim Brainard

Z: And how has it impacted community health?

MB: You don't know how many 70- and 80-year-olds I've talked to who say, 'You know, I was overweight, and I'm getting out everyday now on the trail either walking or riding the bike, riding Zagster.' It really has made the community healthier.

Z: What’s the reception been like?

MB: People were excited about it. People move here because they like our bike programs. I was talking to one man on the trail not too long ago and he said, 'We lived in another suburb about 30 miles away, but found ourselves here every weekend for a variety of reasons, the bike share and trail systems being one of them.' Finally he said, 'Let's just move to Carmel.'

Z: Carmel consistently pops up on "best cities in America" lists. Did you see Zagster or local bike sharing in general as a way to stay ahead of the competition?

MB: Absolutely. It's all about competition. It's about city design. It's about what we do with what we have — and Zagster is a part of that puzzle.

Z: How so?

MB: Everything we do to raise the quality of life, including creating a bike share with a great company like Zagster, helps make this a more competitive place. A better place. It's not just always about getting jobs, it's about making sure it's a good place for the people who have chosen to spend their lives here.

Z: What would you say to other cities that are considering local bike sharing for themselves?

MB: I would encourage them to get bike-share programs. For all the reasons we've discussed: it's healthy for the community, it creates a sense of community, it’s alternative transportation, it saves money on building roads, it’s healthier and it’s just fun.

Z: What would you say to convince the skeptics out there that think that these types of programs are a waste of money?

MB:  Number one, I’d say the city spends very little on it because of the structure that Zagster has provided.

Z: So what's next?

MB: We're going to continue to redevelop our center core into a very walk-able city, built at five levels basically with bicycle facilities in every building and bike lanes seen basically everywhere in the community.

Zagster Brings Bicycle Sharing to Conference of Mayors

The future of bicycle sharing is headed to the U.S. Conference of Mayors. In fact, in a sense, it’s already there. That’s because the annual meeting takes place June 24-27 in Indianapolis this year, with opening night festivities in neighboring Carmel — one of Zagster’s many municipal bicycle sharing partners.

Read the case study on bicycle sharing in Carmel

Carmel’s thriving bike share already has 80 bikes and 10 stations. But to serve the influx of attendees, and to tout a key aspect of award-winning Carmel’s progressive transportation planning, Zagster is partnering with the USCM and the city to host a temporary bike-share station at Friday night’s kickoff gala at Carmel’s Palladium and Center Green.

All attendees will have the opportunity to take Zagster bikes for a free spin around the event. Our team members will be on site to answer any questions and to help get people rolling. And because bicycle sharing is becoming an expected amenity in cities of all sizes, we’ll have some succinct informational materials to distribute to everyone interested in bringing bicycle sharing to their communities.

We’re ecstatic about the opportunity to serve mayors from across the country and to show off Carmel’s lauded bike share. But don’t just take our word for it that bicycle sharing is going great in Carmel.

Our local partners hail the Carmel Bike Share as “very successful” and a “great program for the community.” And The Indianapolis Star, noting that we quadrupled our Carmel fleet in just one year while also expanding into the neighboring town Westfield, recently wrote that the program is “off to fast start.” It’s no surprise, then, that we’re already seeing interest in expanding the system yet again to the rest of the county.

“Everything we do to raise the quality of life, including creating a bike share with a great company like Zagster, helps make this a more competitive place,” says Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard. “A better place.”

We agree, and we hope everyone in attendance at the USCM’s annual meeting gets a chance to take a spin, see why bicycle sharing is all the rage in Carmel, and learn what bicycle sharing can do for their communities, too.