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Bike-Share Programs

Best Practice Category:

Transportation Demand Management Pedestrian and Bicycle Circulation


Bike-share is a transportation program that supplements the local transportation infrastructure of a university, neighborhood, or whole city by providing bicycles for rent to the public. The typical system has many stations, each including an electronic kiosk, terminals for storing the bicycles, and the bicycles themselves. With a valid account they can check out a bike, ride to their destination, and return the bike to a nearby station. Users can pick up and drop off bicycles from stations located throughout the service area.

Santa Monica Next credit: Santa Monica Next

Bike-share differs from daily bike rentals in that its goal is to enable users to move quickly to their destinations and keep bikes for a short period of time. A successful bike share program will promote active transportation for local trips. These programs can help cultivate a biking culture, both in terms of making bicyclists more visible in an area, and by increasing ridership among people who might not otherwise cycle.

Well-designed bike-share systems share common features. The bikes are comfortable, with specially designed parts and sizes to discourage theft and re-sale. Users are able to access real-time information on bike locations and stations, pay, or provide feedback on various platforms such as web, mobile phones, and/or at terminal kiosks.   Most fare structures offer a variety of options for different users’ needs. Payment can be processed through daily, monthly, or annual passes. Overage charges are often applied to trips over 30 minutes, which increases turnover and availability of bikes.

Bike Share; John Lodder
Bike Share; John Lodder

Location of bike-share stations is particularly important. Bike-share stations should typically be provided in or near transit stations, major destinations (such as shopping centers, universities, arenas, etc.), and densely-populated areas. Stations should also be located near one another and be visible from streets to improve ridership and ease of use. A dense network, with stations located within a short walking distance (about 1/4 mile) of each other is ideal.

There are multiple best practices to ensure a successful bike-share program. To begin, cities may need to revisit existing infrastructure, land use plans and policies, and conduct feasibility studies to determine what is needed to establish bike-share. Typically, a robust network of bicycle facilities that appeal to a range of user groups are necessary to encourage utilization.  The most successful bike-share programs are funded and sustained through public-private partnerships. Within this partnership, a project-management unit is usually created to manage the system and make improvements as needed. This team should begin by clearly defining goals with measurable metrics to properly monitor and improve the system. Education, incentive, and reward programs should also be pursued to encourage ridership before kick-starting a bike-share program.


  • Increase transit accessibility; Help address “first-last mile problem”
  • Promote active lifestyles and improve public health
  • Reduce VMT
  • Improve air quality


Santa Monica Bike Share

Santa Monica’s “Breeze” bike share system serves residents and visitors in the city. Launched in 2015, the system has 500 bicycles and 75 bicycle stations located throughout the city, with additional stations in Venice.

The system offers several plans for using the bikes. Users may pay $6 per hour (prorated at $0.10 per minute) or purchase a monthly or annual pass. The plans vary in the amount of time that users may check out bikes each day, up to either 30 minutes or 60 minutes per day. Passes range in price from $20 to $25 per month monthly plans, and $119 to $149 for annual plans. Discounted passes are available for students and Santa Monica residents. Users may purchase plans online or at station kiosks, or link their Metro TAP card to check out bikes.

To borrow a bike, users enter their account number or tap their member card on the bicycle keypad. Once they reach their destination users return the bike to a Breeze station or a rack within 100 feet if the station they choose is full.

The system offers a mobile application which enables users to find and reserve a bike, share rides with friends, find local promotions, and manage their account.

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Bay Area Bike Share

May Area Bike Share; Mariordo
May Area Bike Share; Mariordo

The Bay Area Bike Share system is currently operating in San Francisco, San Jose, Redwood City, Mountain View, and Palo Alto with 700 bicycles and 70 stations. The program will expand in five phases over the course of two years to 7,000 bikes. The service will grow to serve Oakland, Berkeley, and Emeryville, but the Pilot Cities including Redwood City, Mountain View, and Palo Alto are scheduled to sunset due to insufficient use. The expansion has involved a public outreach process that included stakeholder meetings, public workshops, and an online portal for people to submit suggestions for new station locations.

People may sign up for a membership online or by purchasing passes at station kiosks. Users with annual passes receive a key that can be used to check out bikes. Annual members are allowed unlimited trips up to 30 minutes each at no additional cost. Annual plans cost $88, with rides lasting between 30 and 60 minutes charged $4, and $7 for each additional 30 minutes. This fee structure promotes turnover. 24 hour and 3 day memberships are also available, priced at $9 and $22, respectively.

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Long Beach Bike Share

Long Beach Bike Share launched in 2016 with stations in downtown Long Beach and along the shoreline. The system consists of 50 stations with 500 bicycles, available for residents and visitors.

Users have multiple payment plans to choose from. Plans catered towards visitors and short-term rentals allow a user to “pay as they go” for $3.50 each 30 minutes, with a one-hour minimum. A prepaid plan allows users to pay $21 for four hours. For more frequent users, there are monthly payment plans of $15 for 60 minute ride times each day or $20 for 90 minute daily ride times. Up to six persons can share one membership account.

To rent a bike, patrons can use a mobile app or enter an account number on the bicycle’s keypad. At the end of the trip, the bike must be returned to a station--or a rack within 100 feet--if the station is full. Bikes can also be locked to a public bike rack for a small fee.

The system was funded by a $2.3 million Call for Projects grant awarded by Metro for bicycle infrastructure improvements. Aside from a $565,000 match from the City for the initial purchase of the bicycles, Long Beach Bike Share will operate without cost to the City.

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