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!