How to Make Bike Sharing Work in the Suburbs

Bike sharing is taking off in suburbs across America.

To the uninitiated, that may seem counterintuitive because bike sharing was long considered a big-city service. Early iterations of bike sharing required high-density environments, with recommendations calling for stations every 300 meters (or roughly 1,000 feet.) And they aimed primarily to supplement existing transit infrastructure and aid commuting — worthy goals, but ones that did not consider the broader uses for the humble bicycle.

That’s no longer the case thanks to the advent of “flexible bike sharing.” By using hardware that is relatively lightweight and inexpensive, and by integrating locks into bikes — rather than into fixed stations — this model enables suburbs to address their unique transportation needs.

As a result, we’re now witnessing a nationwide boom in suburban bike sharing. Roughly 75% of all U.S. cities with bike shares have fewer than 500,000 residents, according to the Shared Use Mobility Center. What’s more, a plurality of these cities (about 40%) have fewer than 100,000 residents.

So how does bike sharing work in the suburbs?

Zagster bike share suburbs

At the New Jersey Bike & Walk Summit, in February, our team partnered with Princeton University’s Director of Transportation & Parking Services, Kim Jackson, to explain just that. (Zagster operates a great and growing program on the Princeton campus, and that bike share is poised to spread throughout the surrounding suburb of Princeton in the near future.) 

It wouldn’t do the presentation justice to condense into a brief blog post all the information about making bike sharing work in the suburbs. But conveniently, there’s a comprehensive — yet approachable and digestible — eBook covering that very subject: The Guide to Running a Small-City Bike Share.

The guide covers all the steps necessary to make bike sharing work in the suburbs — from defining goals and success metrics, to planning a launch event and educational outreach. So if you're interested in building a suburban bike share in your community, or just interested in learning more about the process for making bike sharing work in the suburbs,  download the full eBook below.