Citywide bike shares are exploding in popularity across the country, with the total number of shared bikes doubling during 2013. The majority of that growth took place in large citywide models such as New York’s Citi Bike, Chicago’s Divvy, and D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare, but private bike sharing is poised for explosive growth as well. One thing the citywides all share is the benefit of extensive, professional planning and consulting. But what do you do if you’re looking to introduce a private bike share to your community? Where do you start?
Citywide bike shares, by necessity, are one-size-fits-all. Private bike shares, on the other hand, can be customized to suit your community’s unique needs. Zagster’s 4-step approach will help you gain a better understanding of what’s involved, where to start and how to set your community up for successful bike sharing.
Step 1 – Why do you want a bike share?
There are a variety of reasons for introducing bike sharing to your community, with differing levels of relevance and priority for each unique community. Your first job is to determine the goals and objectives of your bike share. What problem are you trying to solve?
- Have cluttered, abandoned bikes become a problem by choking out storage space and creating an eyesore?
- Are other transportation options crowded or unable to reach or adequately serve commuters?
- Do other transportation options create traffic in areas where you’d like to reduce congestion?
- Are you trying to offer or promote a benefits program?
- Does your community have a commitment to minimizing environmental impact and promoting sustainable transportation options?
- Are you trying to encourage or support a more active lifestyle?
- Is your community situated around resources for biking? Trails, dedicated bike lanes, etc.?
These are just a few of the common reasons for starting a bike share. Some of them may apply to your community or you may develop your own, unique goals. Addressing these factors will form the basis for determining the success of your program as well as the framework by which you evaluate progress.
Step 2 – Who are your potential riders?
The next step is to take a critical look at your community and define the various types of users you anticipate serving. Your community might have one primary demographic – residents in multi-family communities, employees in business campuses, or you might have multiple demographics like undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff at a university. Start with the broadest categories and work your way more specific. If your community is residents, you might be able to further sub-divide by bike ownership, activity level, and rate of participation in offered events and amenities.
Once you have an idea of the ‘who’ you’ll want to look at the ‘why.’ Why would each of these groups want to use a bike share? What factors might attract them? What might be the best way to reach these groups and inform them of the resource?
Step 3 – How do your goals align with your potential riders?
After you know who will be using your bike share, and why they might want to use it, it’s time to pull your goals and objectives back to the front. This step is all about alignment. How do the goals and objectives you’ve identified compare to what your community is looking for from a bike share? It’s possible to gently nudge your community towards your objectives, however, if they’re too far divergent you’ll be designing a solution that won’t address any problem and that results in a rarely utilized resource. This process might require that you adjust your original goals or possibly introduce new ones.
This step also provides a great opportunity to seek additional input. Find a few representative individuals from the demographics you’ve identified and have an informal conversation to assess their needs and reactions to your ideas. Bring the topic of bike sharing up at a community event or meeting. A short survey will help you confirm your observations and introduce elements you might have overlooked. At the conclusion of this step you should have a solid idea of how your objectives align with those of your potential riders.
Step 4 – What’s your plan?
With your goals in mind, your potential riders taken into consideration, and some thought given to how these two factors align, your final step is to develop a plan. For example, your riders might be looking for a recreational resource and you might be looking to promote a healthy lifestyle and make use of nearby biking resources like an amazing bike trail.
Your plan should take a look at the possible demand for a bike share, the best ways to make your community aware of the resource, and some options for placement of the bikes so that riders can find them and access both the bikes and the trails easily. Your plan might suggest obtaining 8 bikes, organizing a spring launch with a grand opening event and installing the bikes under a shelter at the side of your building where they will be highly visible to resident traffic and close to the bike paths and trails you’ve identified.
This step is where an industry expert like Zagster can help too. With in-depth experience designing and operating bike share programs at premier multi-family communities, Ivy League universities, and worldwide luxury hotels, Zagster can advance your plan from a dream to a reality.