Businesses

Zagster's Smooth Operator

By Adrian Albus, Zagster’s Vice President of Markets

A long list of things needs to go right for a shared transit system like Zagster’s to work. And while much of a system’s success stems from the people who use it, true success starts and ends with our operations department. At Zagster, we know it’s our responsibility to anticipate our rider’s needs. While many of our competitors are busy investing resources in brand awareness and rapid expansion, Zagster focuses on making sure riders have a great experience every single time they use one of our vehicles.

How do we do that? By zeroing in on the four key pillars of a successful shared transit system, a checklist that the Zagster operations team uses to run more than 250 bike share programs in 35 states: the right vehicles in the right condition in the right place at the right time.

Let’s break it down.

1.) The right vehicles

Everything starts with the vehicle. We determine the kinds of shared vehicles a program needs by conducting an exhaustive study of the place—a city, a campus, a neighborhood—the vehicles will be used. We study the width and characteristics of the streets riders would use. Are they narrow? Are there bikes lanes? Are there curb-protected boulevards? Then we look at topography. Hilly streets dictate a certain type of vehicle, while flat cityscapes mean we can use another, or consider a mix of vehicle types. Mindful of a client’s specific needs, we then determine the best fleet size and mix to roll out in that community.

2.) In the right condition

Once the vehicles are on the ground, our team then prioritizes regular maintenance to ensure the fleet is in great shape so our customers have a safe, enjoyable ride. Bad rides on Zagster vehicles are simply not an option, and we work hard to make sure all our vehicles are running smoothly.

This means the operations team has to know when bikes are damaged, improperly locked or left outside of the system area. We take this very seriously at Zagster; our team is constantly rebalancing our fleet to make sure vehicles are in the places people want them at the time they want them. And so we use this opportunity to inspect each vehicle and make sure it’s running smoothly and do the necessary maintenance required of such a fleet. This takes a lot of time and energy. But investing in safe vehicles is a no-brainer for us. Safety comes first at Zagster

3.) In the right place

We want to make sure riders find vehicles in the places they want them—our goal is to introduce mobility to the neighborhoods and people that need it most. We enter areas where people are experiencing any number of common transportation problems like traffic congestion, low access and high prices. We build a presence in the densely populated, congested downtown areas where potential for ridership is high, but we also look for opportunities to introduce transportation to areas that have been left unserved by transit options—bypassed by subways or bus routes and unserved by livery fleets.

Our rebalancing teams make sure our vehicles are in the right place at the right time. Bikes don’t always flow evenly, especially when used for commuting: a lot of bikes and scooters can end up in downtown areas after the morning commute and need to be brought back to a high-demand area by a member of our team. Our rebalancers use our internal data and analytics, collecting and analyzing figures every day to evaluate traffic patterns across our systems and to figure out how we can adjust the distribution of our fleet to make ridership even easier for our users. By actively measuring and optimizing the use of our shared vehicles, we create a reliable form of transportation that people return to again and again.

 4.) At the right time

To truly transform someone’s daily transit routine, vehicles have to be available at the right time—every time. To make this happen, our team first studies and learns the community’s current movement patterns—who goes where and when, and how do they do it? Is there a better, simpler option? We work with local transit agencies to learn peak traffic times and how use differs across existing transportation options. Our ultimate aim: identify transportation gaps and fill them with a Zagster system.

When we work with a city to launch a bike share program, we make a promise to the community around engagement, equity and safety—all the responsibility of our operations team. Especially in smaller cities, residents likely have a car and affordable parking to fall back on - meaning you only have one, maybe two chances to facilitate a positive experience with your service before they revert to these familiar options. In operations, we recognize the importance of our work knowing that only when you have an effective operations technology and process will people trust shared transit with their trip.







 

Zagster Celebrates Bike To Work Week By Recognizing Riders Who Bike At Work

Not everyone has the chance to bike to work — but with Zagster, everyone has the opportunity to bike at work. So to celebrate National Bike to Work Week, Zagster is spotlighting all the riders who use our systems during the workday to get out of the office and get around town.Zagster operates bike shares for leading companies such as Quicken Loans, General Motors, Samsung and Salesforce. These programs increase workforce health, happiness and mobility, all while saving businesses time and money.

Since this type of usage often goes unnoticed, though, all week Zagster encouraged riders to submit the reasons why they bike at work. Whether it's to grab lunch, reach meetings, or simply take mental breaks, there are myriad reasons to bike at work, and the submissions we received bear that out.

It's #BayStateBikeWk @ #cambridgediscoverypark! @alewifetma@forrester@LandrysBicycles@zagster@SanteMobileCafepic.twitter.com/vBMKm9zfbV

— TheBulfinchCompanies (@BulfinchCos) May 19, 2016

 Biking at Work at Salesforce.com

Biking at Work at Salesforce.com

 Biking at Work at General Motors

Biking at Work at General Motors

 Biking at Work at Cambridge Discovery Park

Biking at Work at Cambridge Discovery Park

Why Bike Sharing is Taking Off in America — And Why it’s Here to Stay

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Bike sharing has officially entered the mainstream, with the number of bike share programs worldwide rising from a mere handful at the turn of the century to roughly 1,000 today. The U.S. is no exception to that trend either, with even more programs set to roll out this year in places from Los Angeles to Atlanta.

So what’s driving  that exponential growth stateside?  

There are a few factors. Car ownership has tapered off — and potentially plateaued — especially among young adults. An influx of infrastructure, such as protected bike lanes, has made it safer and easier than ever for urban commuters and tourists to ride in major cities like Philadelphia, Chicago, and New York. And increased educational outreach has helped tamp down fears over the rise of the supposed “all-powerful bike lobby.”

But while a dip in auto usage and a rise in bike infrastructure have certainly boosted bike shares, there’s also a fundamental factor at play — the innovation-driven growth of the sharing economy.

The latter half of the 20th century saw relatively little technological innovation in urban transportation. Yet since then, ever-faster data connections and the proliferation of smartphones have transformed the global economy and given rise to new shared mobility services like car shares, bike shares, and ride shares. Need a car for errands? There’s an app for that. Want a bike for the afternoon? You can be on one in minutes with the push of a button.

The paradigm shift has been most pronounced among tech-savvy teenagers and young adults. Less than 70 percent of 16-to-24 year-old Americans owned a driver’s license in 2013, the lowest figure in 50 years. Meanwhile, a majority of Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 say they would cut back on driving if other transportation options were available. And when given the choice of owning a smartphone or a car, those same millennials are far more likely to say they can’t part with their handheld supercomputers.

Some argue that the sharing economy is a blip born out of the Great Recession of 2008. And while it’s true the economic downturn sharply inhibited spending, there remain underlying reasons why the sharing economy continues to grow and thrive. On a base level, technological  innovation is accelerating urbanization and globalization; it is connecting us to each other, and making our world smaller. And as technological innovation pulls us together, the sharing economy’s logistical barriers continue to shrink. In that light, it makes sense why shared mobility is beginning to thrive as a serious transportation alternative.

As for bike sharing in particular, it’s a fun, low-cost tool to get from point A to point B, or to just explore a new area from a unique perspective. Such programs also offer a more convenient alternative to the hassles of owning a car — especially in a city — or relying on finicky mass transit. In many places around the country, riding a bike to work can actually be the quickest way to commute. And with more communities seeking to improve the health and well-being of their members, bike shares are an appealing way to do just that.

Bike shares allow us to harness the technology already at our fingertips to get where we’re going in a quick, easy, and affordable way. As the sharing economy keeps growing thanks to technological innovation, so too will bike sharing.

This post was contributed by Dave Reed

What does it take to run a bike share?

The biggest factor behind a bike share’s success is not the technology or even the bikes, it’s the people and processes that keep the system running day to day. From planning, launch, education, operations and maintenance, top-notch bike sharing programs have processes and people that ensure great rider experiences.At Zagster, our fleet team makes sure that more than 100 bike share programs across the United States are up and running for every ride.

Jeremy Jo
Jeremy Jo

We sat down with Zagster fleet manager Jeremy Jo to get the low down on what it takes to run a successful bike share.

The Share: Jeremy, welcome. Tell us a little about yourself and the role of fleet operations at Zagster.

Jeremy Jo: Thanks for having me.

Fleet operations at Zagster handles everything that has to do with keeping our bike share programs running. We make sure that there is always a supply of bikes available for riders across our locations. That means coordinating everything from maintenance, rebalancing, replacements, and winterization/storage for every bike.

I started working in the cycling industry at 15 doing sales and service for a local bike shop in California. Eventually, I moved to Boston and studied to be an engineer. Most recently I finished my Masters in Mechanical Engineering at Tufts University and also a Masters in Engineering Management at the Gordon Institute at Tufts as well.

TS: Why is an operations program important for bike sharing?

JJ: I think the best way to describe any sharing system is a supply and demand economy. You need both sides of the supply and the demand to be fulfilled to be able to have successful operations. At Zagster, our supply side is bikes and if we don't have bikes available than we can't keep up with demand which means the demand side is going to drop because riders will know that the supply just isn't there.

So it's important to operate successfully so we can make the bikes available which means that the riders can rely on bike sharing system and utilize the system as a sustainable and reliable mode of transportation.

TS: So the more riders see the bikes are in good shape, are available, are where they want to be, the more they will use them. What are the maintenance considerations that go along with bike share bikes? A lot of people ride their bikes all the time and never bring them into a mechanic.

JJ: I would say that a casual rider would use their personal bike maybe 3-4 times a month. An aggressive commuter might ride 5-10 times a week, but our bikes can see 15 or more rides per day. So you are seeing potentially 5-15x utilization with bike share bikes versus personal bikes.

Because of the level of riding, the bikes need increased attention and that means more care to understand when a part is worn out and even knowing when something is going to break so you can fix it proactively.

So frequency of service intervals is much higher and that’s where the knowledge and skill comes into play because the more efficient and more knowledgeable you are the less time you need to spend on each bike because you know what to look for.

TS: So if these bikes are being ridden a lot more than personal bikes, how often does a mechanic need to visit the system? Is this a regular thing, or just occasionally?

JJ: So this is a tough question to answer because it changes based on scale and it changes based on use. Obviously as you use the bikes more they need more service.

Adding in the operational side of things brings more complexity to the situation. I think that a great way to describe it is there are two sides to the mechanics visits or site visits in general related to bikes.

If a bike has a flat tire, that's a service visit required. The bike needs maintenance so the shifting, braking and everything is running smooth and there's air in the tires, which all falls into the maintenance category.

But then there's the rebalancing and station visit side of maintenance in that you need to make sure the bike share system is running smoothly. This is moving bikes around, reallocating and making sure all the stations have an adequate number of bikes to meet the demands and expectations of riders.

TS: There's more to operations than just having a mechanic on the ground, you someone who's proactively looking at the system and making sure it's operating correctly.

JJ: Yes, but I think there's even more than just that. There's the fleet side of things in terms of being able to address any issues that come up and working with mechanics to resolve them but there's also the support side of things.

Who does a rider go to if something goes wrong? So you need that inbound support request as well as the outbound issue dispatch.

So right now, we have someone at Zagster who does just that. Our rider services team can track a bike down, understand what needs to happen, enter it into the system, follow up with riders and generally be the first line of support. And that is probably something that we find many people don’t have with bike share programs they do on their own and often don’t have all these pieces in place to be able to support the riders.

TS: What would be your advice for communities that are looking at starting bike sharing systems right now? What are the things they should be thinking about?

JJ: I think one thing that often gets underestimated is the number of bikes required in order to have a successful bike share. Anecdotally, we have programs where there is really successful ridership but their complaint is always that there are no bikes available.

This is an artifact of a couple of things: that the operation isn't working in terms of getting the bikes to where they need to be, but more so it's that the program is successful and we don't have enough bikes on the ground.

It's that supply/demand balance. It’s important to budget the appropriate number of bikes so that it doesn't look like the program is failing when it’s really very successful.

Another thing to think about is rider education. Many people know how to ride a bike, but are inexperienced with handling a bike in an urban environment. I don't mean just riding - I mean how to ride on the road, when and where to lock it up - that whole level of rider education is something that we support is well.

Also, on the operations side we have people that really understand how to design bike share systems, who know to determine the optimal system size, if you need overflow parking and where the flow of traffic is. Just for example, on a campus we place stations to try and replicate that traffic flow because the bikes are being used as transportation and they need to be placed in order to make the system successful.

TS: So your team has really baked in these best practices all the way through the service Zagster provides. I mean, this isn't just a bike, part of the whole program is you get the knowledge of these operational best practices.

JJ: Yea, I think that bike sharing is more than just bikes. To launch a successful program there are things that you need to do that people don't even think about before they actually have the bikes on the ground. You need the buy in of the community, you need good equipment and you also need a solid operational plan in order to launch and grow a successful program.

Learn More

Want to run a better bike share? Check out the free Guide to Running a Bike Share here.

Zagster’s planning, launch and operations teams are experienced in managing on-demand bike share networks. 

Get in touch with us to learn more about how we can help you in planning or implementing a bike share program.

 

5 Ways to Use Zagster on Your Lunch Break

Tired of staring at your screen all day? It is no secret that time away from the desk can boost efficiency and morale. If your office has Zagster, it is easier than ever to hop on a bike, take full advantage of your lunch break, and still maintain (and even enhance) productivity. Here are five smart ways to do so: Eat lunch somewhere other than in your office

If you ever tire of packing lunch or eating microwaved leftovers, going out to eat may prove a revitalizing choice. Stepping away from your desk will give your mind the needed mental distance from the responsibilities and tasks at hand. This mid-day break is also a great mode of building relationships with friends or coworkers. If you’d like to meet someone new, the mobile app Let’s Lunch will help you schedule lunch or coffee breaks with interesting local professionals with whom you can build your network. A quick bike ride will take you there without the hassle of driving and better yet, a brisk ride will leave you feeling physically refreshed and ready to go upon return. Keep in mind that a wholesome, nutritious lunch is key to bolstering productivity and fueling your body through that afternoon hump.

Fit in a quick, fun bout of exercise

Ride solo or grab a friend! Biking is an effective and enjoyable way to build up muscle tone, stamina, and cardiovascular health. Fitting exercise into your work day, even if for just 20 minutes, can release neurochemicals that will reduce stress, improve mood, bolster creativity, and increase learning and memory retention. Whether you are cycling to a destination or merely touring the nearby neighborhoods, Zagster makes a midday workout extremely accessible and efficient. You can use our map function in the Zagster mobile application to find a nearby bike route.

Run (bike?) errands

Maybe you overslept and skipped the supermarket on your way to work. Maybe you’re rushing home after work to prepare for a dinner party. Whatever the case, your lunch break is a great chance to get away from the office, occupy your mind with non-work-related things, and check another item off your “to do” list. Riding a Zagster bike will also save you the hassle of navigating parking lots and crowded streets during that hectic lunch hour traffic.

Visit another office

At larger corporate campuses, trekking from building to building can be a journey. For example, General Motor’s Technical Center in Warren, Michigan spans 720 acres - not easy to get around. GM employees love to take advantage of Zagster by biking to meetings at other offices or simply to visit a coworker and simply avoiding the time and energy it would take to walk to one’s car, drive to another lot, and find parking (not to mention again the lunch hour traffic). Simplify your travels with emission-free, user-friendly bikes; Zagster bikes are available to grab and go in seconds.

Locate a quiet area to meditate

Try as you might, most offices are not conducive to giving your mind a break from the chaos. With the constant bustle of coworkers and looming stress of duties and meetings, it is important to take time during the workday to clear your mind in the peace of a nearby park or other calm setting. Meditation is becoming more and more common among highly-stressed professionals, with large corporations like Google even offering classes to its employees on mindfulness and self-awareness. Studies on the effectiveness of meditation in the workplace have shown that it can increase focus, improve memory, and decrease stress among many other benefits. A quick bike ride can take you from a noisy, tense office to a perfect site for solitude -- and you can avoid overturning the peaceful results that come with driving through traffic, too!

Zagster Bikes Now at Naperville Woods Office Center

Taking a break from work just got a little more fun for tenants at the Naperville Woods Office Center in Naperville, Illinois! We partnered with NAI Hiffman, a suburban property management and brokerage firm, to offer the Zagster to their employees. The Naperville Woods Office Center consists of two Class A buildings comprised of 487,000 SF of office space on a 31-acre office park and is situated in an ideal location adjacent to the I-88 interchange, near several hotels and restaurants.

Employees can reserve and ride cruiser bikes to run errands, grab lunch, attend meetings or just plain exercise. And did we mention that the Herrick Woods Forest Preserve is adjacent to the offices?

Read more about the Naperville Woods Office Center bike share here.

Image Credit: http://www.wilkow.com/site/largepics/804/81410/297711/596693/a3334.jpg

The Business Case for Bike Sharing

Given that the vast majority of bike share programs in the world are consumer-focused, rarely if ever do you hear anyone making the business case, or demonstrating ROI for bike share programs.

Well, as the only privately-funded, venture-backed bike sharing company in the US, we need to show our customers ROI. The good news is, it's relatively easy to do. When auto giant GM adopted a fleet of Zagster bikes for use by its more than 19,000 employees at its Warren Technical Campus in Michigan (which holds 61 buildings across 330 acres) the company was looking forward to giving its employees a new transportation for traveling on, off and around campus during the workday.

Since the bikes were installed they have been a huge success with employees. In the first month alone more than 1,500 trips were taken on Zagster bikes which equates to about one for each GM employee who signed up for the service.

This kind of success typically takes a year for most citywide programs to achieve, and illustrates just how popular bikes can be at a company with thousands of employees spread over multiple buildings.

But the data show that employees aren't the only ones finding and advantage in a readily available, easy to use fleet of bikes. GM's corporate goals to increase productivity have also moved forward.

According to a survey of GM employees, Zagster bikes save each rider about 10 minutes of time that would otherwise be spent walking long distances or waiting for a shuttle. When you multiply that number by the total number of employees who have used Zagster, the minutes saved total up to about the equivalent of one full-time employee.

It's not a bad start, and may just be the beginning of a trend among large employers using bike share programs to increase employee well-being, productivity and efficiency.

We've seen (and will report soon on) solid ROI from our other private sector clients and believe this is key to the future of bike sharing. Demonstrating ROI is the best way to deflate criticism from detractors, reduce taxpayer burden, and ensure the long term sustainability of any program. You can read more about how GM is using Zagster’s bikes here.

Why The Best Companies Win Big With Bike Sharing

While cities across the United States are playing catch-up to the worldwide explosion in bike sharing, some of the world’s best and most innovative organizations have been realizing the value of bike shares for years.

We’ve already established that corporate bike shares can pay for themselves in real, economically significant ways while offering health and wellness benefits, and improving working conditions and employee morale.

Of course, that’s just theoretical – which is why we love to see things working out in the real world, as in our Detroit deployment with Quicken Loans and Rock Ventures. Our 60 bikes there are available to more than 9,000 Quicken/Rock employees free of charge, and they’ve been using them to play their part in reinvigorating the struggling economy of downtown Detroit.

Successes like this are helping people make the case for bike sharing on corporate campuses as well as at universities, hotels and residential high-rises. They’re a great way to promote sustainable business practices, add extra cachet to your brand, recruit top talent, and solve transportation issues.

In our experience, prospective bike sharing programs generally get challenged by two departments: risk management and procurement. In the past, companies were limited to two options: joining a citywide bike share or running things on their own. Joining a citywide bike share is generally costly, allows for little flexibility, and may not address transportation problems effectively. Meanwhile, self-run bike shares are typically founded on noble ideas, but they often run into issues with affordability, ease of use, and risk (both fiscal and physical).

Buying a fleet of cheap bikes can seem like a good idea at first, but maintenance and a host of other issues can keep them from being worthwhile. Just a few common pitfalls:

  • The hardware are subject to theft and vandalism

  • Oversight and management turn out to be inadequate unless you hire someone full-time to maintain the fleet – an inefficient and expensive proposition

  • Inadequate maintenance lead to safety issues and high replacement costs

  • Inconvenient, non-automated rental processes dull the benefits of bike shares and make people less likely to use them

That’s where outside contractors come in. Outsourcing business services often makes much more sense, allowing you to focus on your core business rather than having personnel take the time to learn and manage a department that isn’t your company’s bread and butter.

Sure, you could in theory set up an internal Department of Cleaning to keep things tidy – or you could hire a cleaning company so you don’t have to worry about hiring and managing cleaning people, buying supplies, dealing with potential theft, and other such concerns. These same principles apply to bike sharing: Instead of dealing with the many issues that spring up from self-managing your bike fleet, you can capitalize on Zagster’s technological expertise and years of experience in the industry.

The benefits of bike sharing are clear – but the devil’s in the details. Consider the risks and the cost before embarking on a self-run bike share, and talk to Zagster’s experts about how you can bring affordable bike sharing to your company – headache-free.

The Beauty Of Simplicity In Bike Sharing

In our quest to design the perfect shared bike, we decided to be different – by being the same.

Our bikes aren’t like those of other bike shares; rather, they’re much more like the bikes you grew up with, the bikes you know and love.

To some, this may seem counterintuitive. After all, why would we try to adapt a machine that’s intended for a different use rather than building one to suit our purposes? It’s not for lack of design capabilities or R&D funding – it’s an intentional choice.

Designed For Riders

Zagster’s strategic partnership with ASI allows us to build our bikes on the Breezer Uptown EX-LS platform, and we feel that its design makes it ideal for bike sharing. The Uptown EX-LS has a wealth of features that make it perfectly suited to our riders:

  • Its design caters to the needs of novice riders without constraining experts. Many bike share riders are relatively new to cycling; experienced users often own their own bicycles, but utilize bike shares to reduce their theft risk and maintenance costs, and to run errands for which performance-oriented bikes are ill-suited.

  • The frame geometry puts rider in an upright body position, eliminating stress on the back, shoulders, hands, and neck so you can sit up and enjoy the ride.

  • The long wheelbase gives it stable handling that compensates for lack of experience, poor coordination, and even mild balance disorders, making it accessible for the masses.

  • Wide tires provide great traction in a variety of weather conditions as well as a built-in suspension, mitigating the hazards of potholes, speed bumps, and gravel.

  • Its step-through frame offers a twofold advantage. First, riders with limited flexibility can easily mount and dismount, which is difficult or impossible for many older people on standard bikes. Second, it offers more everyday utility, as loaded baskets unbalance bikes and make it difficult to mount in standard fashion by tipping them to the side. Try mounting a traditional-frame bike with a gallon of milk loaded in the basket sometime!

  • The Breezer’s intuitive shifting system can be used by anyone. Twist the shifter toward you and pedaling is easier; twist away, you go faster – but not too fast, as the gear range is designed to make pedaling up hills easier while limiting top speed to prevent serious injuries.

But don’t just take our word for it – the Uptown routinely garners accolades from the experts. It’s good to be king!

Perfect For Our Partners

Our bikes offer a lot of benefits to the folks paying the bills, too. Most other bike shares use custom-built cycles, making them expensive to produce and maintain, and slow to deploy.

Zagster doesn’t share those problems. In fact, basing our bikes on a stock model offers numerous benefits to our partners in sharing:

  • Our bikes cost one-third as much as those of other bike shares, giving Zagster the only economically self-sustaining deployments on the market.

  • Damaged and stolen bikes can be easily and more affordably replaced with no degradation of the user experience.

  • Maintenance costs are lower because the bikes use industry-standard components.

  • Our fleets can be deployed rapidly – installed and ready to ride on two weeks’ notice. Contrast this to New York City’s CitiBike rollout, which was delayed for more than a year when its custom-manufactured bikes were ruined by Hurricane Sandy. If this had happened to a Zagster fleet, the delay would have been measured in weeks or even days.

Streamlined For Everyone

The Zagster philosophy of keeping things cheap, simple and high-quality extends to all the key components of our rental system:

  • Familiarity with standard U-locks means riders can use our system intuitively and lock up anywhere they like. Shedding the constraints of station-to-station biking means the world (or at least as much of the world as is within biking distance) is their oyster.

  • We maintain relationships with multiple component distributors, so we never have availability issues for replacement parts.

  • If a bike becomes unrideable and needs to be repaired quickly, a replacement part can be shipped from a distributor’s local warehouse, so even fleets on the other side of the country from our Boston headquarters don’t need to wait for repair parts to arrive.

For reliable, easy-to-use shared bikes that make life easy on riders while keeping costs down and avoiding maintenance issues, you can’t beat Zagster.

Talk to our experts about how you can get started on your own bike share so your community can enjoy the beauty of simplicity.

Why Zagster Makes Sense If Your City Has A Bike Share Program

With the rise of citywide bike shares in places like New York, Boston, and Chicago, our prospective clients in those towns often ask us some variety of this question: Why should I look at a program like Zagster if there’s already a bike sharing program in my city?

That’s a good question; fortunately, we’ve got a good answer.

We’re excited by Boston’s Hubway, New York’s Citi Bike, and other major implementations, but we’ve found that shared bikes are used differently in public settings compared to private settings – that is, in places like hotels, apartment buildings, and university and corporate campuses.

In fact, quite a few of Zagster’s current customers are located in areas that are already covered by citywide bike sharing programs. Why? Your typical citywide bike sharing program is geared toward short, one-way commutes – for instance, our fellow Bostonians can take the commuter rail to South Station, hop on a Hubway bike, drop it off at another Hubway station in the North End or the Seaport District, and go to work.

However, this model doesn’t make sense for many of the hotels and apartment complexes. For a short commute, citywide bike sharing is great as long as you take a bike out for less than an hour, as a non-member, it's $8. But hotel guests and high-rise residents are more likely to use bikes for pleasure – to explore the city, to see the sights, to ride a trail. If you want to take a bike out for four hours, that price leaps up to $54 – not even including the price of a membership. Taking a bike out for 24 hours would cost more than $100! This happens because citywide systems are designed to discourage long-term usage in favor of short-term use by commuters – leaving a gap that can be filled by private bike shares.

The flexible alternative

Moreover, there are many places these cities that are not currently covered by bike sharing stations. With the ability to lock up your Zagster bike at any location, you’re not limited by the station-to-station nature of the citywide bike shares. Similarly, the bikes themselves are more convenient, as Zagster’s cycles are meant to replicate the experience of bike ownership without all the hassles. Citywide bikes weigh a less-than-convenient 45 pounds; if you’re looking to take a pleasure cruise along the river, you’re going to be a lot happier with Zagster’s far lighter Breezer Uptown models.

For hotel guests in particular, citywide systems offer additional challenges. To use citywide bikes as a visitor, you need to find a station (which may or may not be conveniently near the hotel), then sign up for the system and learn its workings. It’s not customized to the hotel, and hotel staff are not necessarily trained in how it works, which can leave visitors in the dark.

Zagster, on the other hand, provides training to the hotel staff, has an easy-to-use rental portal that the hotel’s front-desk staff can use to quickly rent out a bike without a membership, and the system is flexible enough that the hotel can offer it for free – or, at least, at a far more reasonable rate than $100 a day. Moreover, the program’s revenue goes back to the hotel, not the city, and a well-run bike share can pay for itself during busy months.

Apartment and condo buildings, too, are always looking for low-cost, high-value amenities that qualify for LEED credits. Offering a bike sharing program exclusively to apartment renters allows for more flexibility and encourages a healthier, more active lifestyle that can improve a property’s image. Having access to shared bikes can make a real impact on current and future tenants, too -- offering a bike share differentiates a property from its competition while adding real value that can help attract new tenants and retain current ones.

Say you live in an apartment complex and you want to go to Whole Foods; the closest station might be several blocks away, making the citywide bike share a far from a convenient way to go on your grocery trip. However, Zagster’s locking system allows riders to lock up right in front of any destination, do their shopping, and use the same bike to ride back home – all without worrying about having to pay more money if their trip takes longer than expected. Apartment-complex riders have had their lives changed by Zagster cycles, and they’ve even used them in local bike races! It’s amenities like this that make renters renew their leases year after year.

Efficient and effective campus transit

Finally, many universities can be tempted to simply latch on to their local citywide bike share and be done with it. But unless your university is willing to pay millions of dollars to sponsor new citywide bike sharing stations on campus, practical campus transportation problems can’t be solved this way. When cities plan bike shares, they often put stations on or near university campuses; while these are good for helping people get off campus and into the city, they don’t solve the real issues of getting around campus and reducing costly shuttle bus spending.  For the cost of building a handful of stations to join your campus to a citywide bike share, you could completely blanket your campus with Zagster bikes.

Think of citywide bike shares as you would other forms of public transit – the subway may stop by your campus, but that doesn’t mean that students are going to use the subway to get from dorms to classrooms, nor that they won’t use cabs to get around town. The bike sharing market is huge – there’s room for both the rigid citywide models and Zagster’s flexible one that can address different needs.

Interested in bringing a bike share to your hotel, building or campus? Talk to Zagster’s experts and get things rolling!

4 Steps for Planning a Private Bike Share

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?

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.

6 Key Factors For Choosing Your Bike Share Location

Choosing locations for your bike share can seem complicated. You need to factor in how the bikes will be used, ease of finding the station, access to surrounding spaces for other uses, and local building codes, all while maintaining your property’s aesthetic. But even though no two properties are the same and each will face unique challenges, the choice is simple enough as long as you remember the goal of the project:

Promote Use!

You’re making an investment in a bike share program, and it can provide a variety of significant benefits to your organization – but not if your bikes just sit there unused. Here are Zagster’s six key words to choosing bike share stations that get your money’s worth:

  • Visibility – A bike share station should be visible. It doesn't need to be on public display, but it should be in a high-traffic area where potential riders can find it easily. Signs and flyers are good, but nothing advertises better than the station itself simply being seen.

  • Usage – Where are people likely to ride bikes? It’s a simple formula: Put stations where people will want to use them. Got a nice cycling route that runs right along one side of your property? Put a station on that side so people can get on their bikes and go. Being near public transportation is a big plus, too. And, of course, make sure your stations can be easily accessed by bike – meaning no stairs or elevators required.

  • Safety – If your station is in an area where crime is a concern, riders need to feel comfortable visiting even at off hours. The station should be clean, well-lighted, and visible to security and/or foot traffic. The goal is to minimize the risk of theft and vandalism while creating a welcoming experience.

  • Accessibility – Riders need cell service to operate Zagster’s rental system – if they don't have service, they can't check out bikes. You'll also need a secured outlet or access to sunlight for a solar panel to power our bike-tracking system.

  • Space – Make sure you've got all the space you need for your target fleet size – and be aware of the location's potential for expansion once you generate increases in ridership. Analyze your potential ridership to determine how many bikes you need (we can help with this!) and be sure that your space will not only fit all your bikes, but also have enough surrounding space to allow freedom of access. That space can absolutely be a shared right-of-way, but it can’t be storage or parking space.

  • Preservation – Bikes in good condition portray your brand in a positive light; on the flip side, dirty and weather-damaged bikes degrade your image. Bike stations should be protected from rain and snow – particularly against snow piles and splashes from passing traffic. That said, they don't necessarily need to be covered; often, simply being protected from the prevailing wind direction is sufficient.

Trying to find that perfect spot? Talk to Zagster's experts for advice and guidance on choosing your ideal bike share locations.

How Corporate Bike Shares Pay For Themselves – And Then Some

Great companies are always looking for a competitive edge – increased productivity, lower costs, higher employee retention, better public perception. While those goals can often be complicated to achieve, there's one simple and elegant solution that can boost your efforts in all at once: bike sharing. Today's most forward-thinking companies – including big names like Google, Mozilla, Intel – are increasingly turning to bike shares as an amenity that provides value to company and employees alike.

It's not exactly news that happy workers are productive workers. Companies that want to stay ahead of the curve – especially in fields like technology, where top talent is highly sought after – need to not only provide engaging work for their employees, but also foster a welcoming environment that makes people feel good about being in the office.

Anyone who drives to or from work in an area affected by rush-hour traffic – which seems to be pretty much everywhere these days – knows that commuting can be highly stressful. Sitting in traffic, dealing with aggressive drivers, and driving aggressively yourself are not the most calming ways to start a long workday. With a bike share in place, employees can leave their cars at home in favor of public transportation followed by a short bike ride – saving money while reducing the time and stress of their commute. Meanwhile, employers save money and leave room for growth thanks to the reduced demand for parking spots.

Give a boost to employee productivity

But bike usage doesn't stop when people clock in – in fact, it's during the workday that employers (and employees) see the greatest benefits of bike sharing. Riding a bike to lunch instead of driving or walking provides a pleasant – and potentially time-saving – experience. And on a sprawling corporate campus, bikes are the quickest, most reliable way to get from one building to another at a moment's notice. Shuttle buses are slaves to a schedule, no one wants to drive from one place to another in an office park, and walking is often inefficient.

Let's do some quick math. Say you've got 100 employees, and they make about $60,000 a year on average. That translates to a little less than $30 an hour. Now, if you've got a corporate campus, think of how long your employees spend getting from one part of the campus to another on a daily basis. Let's conservatively estimate it at 15 minutes per day.

Now, the average human walks at roughly 3 miles per hour; bike speeds can vary greatly, but most bike commuters seem to average about 15 mph. We'll dial that back some because we're on a relatively small campus with no open roads, so let's say your bikers will average 10 mph, or roughly three times the speed of walking – so that 15 minutes turns into five minutes. You've saved 10 minutes of daily productivity per employee, which at $30 an hour means $5 per employee per day. With 100 employees, that's a gain of $500 worth of productivity every day. That comes out to a savings of about $130,000 a year – far, far less than the cost of implementing and maintaining a campus bike share.

The hub of workplace wellness

That's one of the more tangible financial benefits – but there are less-tangible ones as well. Biking and other forms of physical exercise are great ways for employees to spend a little break time in the middle of a long workday. A short ride – whether a little pleasure cruise or just a trip to a meeting – helps people clear their heads and blow off a little steam. Getting out of the confines of the office and into some fresh air is a great way to generate creativity; while your body's busy working the pedals, your mind is free to roam about for the solution to that tricky problem or that next big product idea. Exercise makes people happy, and we already know that happiness and productivity go hand in hand.

Naturally, exercise and health go hand in hand, too. Healthy employees not only keep insurance costs down, but also suffer far less from the lost productivity that can be caused by medical issues. Regular bikers use fewer sick days, have lower health care costs, and are more productive.

Bike shares are also a great way to affect the public perception of your brand. Employees – not to mention prospective employees, investors and business partners – respect companies that care about sustainability and treat their employees well. Bike shares and other innovative amenities make people's lives easier and more enjoyable, thereby encouraging employee retention and attracting top candidates to apply for open positions. And being on the cutting edge allows your organization to be mentioned in the same breath as the world's most innovative companies.

Want to start reaping the benefits of a bike share at your office or campus? Contact a Zagster expert and we'll get you rolling in no time.

How To Make The Case For Bike Sharing

You can envision it already. Bike share stations dotting your campus. People walking up to them, and with a few taps on their phones, making locks spring open. They get on the bikes and go – to work, to class, to dinner, maybe just to ride for the sake of riding.

It's a beautiful vision – but now you have to turn it into a reality. To do that, unless you're already at the top of your organization, you need to come to The Powers That Be and plead your case. You already know about the successful bike shares in major cities like New York, Boston and Washington, D.C.; you already know how today's technology has made bike shares more convenient – and more effective – than ever. Now you've got to spread that knowledge, with an emphasis on the value that bike shares create for universities, corporate campuses, hotels and apartment complexes.

Here's a handy guide to convincing a variety of bosses of the benefits they can realize from implementing a modern bike sharing system.

College Campuses

Most universities are constantly looking to grow, using tuition income to offset increasing costs. But space, especially on urban campuses, is quite limited; meanwhile, parking lots and garages are expensive, inefficient and unattractive. Bikes present an option that's friendlier to the environment, to campus aesthetics, and ultimately, to the bottom line.

Make your university administrators aware of these key points:

  • Often, college students buy bikes when they move to campus, only to use them rarely. These bikes end up occupying valuable storage space or may be abandoned – encouraging bike thieves while creating aesthetic eyesores and inconveniences like this:
  • Having a quality bike share demonstrates environmental consciousness and modernity, and shows that you care enough about your students, faculty and staff to offer them high-quality transportation options. Prospective students are increasingly looking for universities that offer bike sharing as an amenity because they're a sign of forward-thinking administrators.

Corporate Campuses

The most innovative companies – especially those with expansive campuses, like Google and Intel – are increasingly turning to bike sharing as an amenity that provides added value to employees while generating value for the company, too. Corporations that provide bike sharing are seen as progressive and pro-employee; they demonstrate a commitment to corporate sustainability, employee wellness, employee happiness, and modernity.

Make sure your bosses know:

  • Bikes provide a faster, cheaper, more economical way to get around corporate campuses than driving or walking. Time is money; save on transportation time, and more work gets done.
  • The PR benefits can be huge. Citi Bike, the New York City bike share program, is being sponsored by Citibank in a $41 million branding deal that has been called "a bank marketer's jackpot.” In a two-month span after the program was implemented, polls yielded a 17-percentage-point increase in people who have a “favorable impression of Citi,” a 14-point increase in those who say Citi “is for people like me,” and a 12-point increase in those who agree that “Citi is a socially responsible company." Whether on a scale this big or on a smaller one, demonstrating an organizational commitment to bike sharing improves your brand's standing in the public eye.
  • Employees love amenities that demonstrate their employers are thinking of their well-being and convenience; a reputation for happy employees leads to higher-quality job candidates and greater retention.

Hotels

Great hotels are all about the amenities. Take a quick look at any hotel-booking website – they all have functions that allow prospective guests to sort hotels by the amenities they offer, and hotels are always looking for the latest and greatest amenities to gain an edge. Just last year, Kimpton Hotels rolled out bike shares at all their properties nationwide.

Here's what you can tell your hotel's managers and owners:

  • Bike sharing is a unique amenity that stands out from the crowd; early adopters have a chance to get an edge on the competition.
  • TripAdvisor's 2012 survey of travelers showed that 54 percent had canceled a hotel because a similar one nearby offered better amenities; the better your amenities, the more bookings and fewer cancellations you'll see.
  • Unlike most other amenities, bike sharing can pay you back.  Guests who would object to paying for the pool or gym are happy to pay for bike sharing – at a national average of $35 a day. Instead of forcing your guests find a nearby bike shop that offers rentals (often at a higher price and during limited hours), why not have them rent directly from you?
  • Bikes help guests connect with their location and enjoy their stay – leading to better reviews, repeat business, and increased brand recognition.

Multifamily Living

While urban living and biking are a match made in heaven, urban living and bike storage are not. As anyone who's lived in an apartment will tell you, a relatively small space that's often many stories off the ground is not a good place to store or maintain a bicycle. Sure, you can hang it from the ceiling, but that doesn't work for everyone and can create its own set of problems. Bringing a bike share to your building saves a lot of trouble for residents who are casual bikers and can improve the value and perception of your property.

Tell your property manager:

  • Biking is blowing up in popularity – in just an eight-year span from 2001 to 2009, ridership more than doubled, from 1.7 billion trips to 4 billion – and it's still growing.
  • Bike sharing is one of the cheapest and most effective ways to qualify for LEED credits.
  • As with hotels, bike sharing doesn't have to be a free service. Residents are often willing to pay for bike sharing – it's cheaper and easier than owning and maintaining a bike, and far cheaper than a shuttle service.
  • For urban dwellers who would otherwise have to deal with the hassles of hard-to-find parking, being able to get around without owning a car is a major convenience – one that'll make them think twice about moving.

In today’s increasingly urban lifestyle, cycling is often the fastest and most enjoyable way from point A to B. But it's the tangible business benefits that are leading bikes – as well as other shared resources – into a new renaissance.

Have you made an effective case for a bike share in your workplace or property? Let us know how in the comments. Or, if you'd like help making your case, contact Zagster's experts for more information on the costs and benefits of the latest and greatest in sustainable transportation.