And how to make your city a contender.

If you want to have a great bike-share program in your city, a few factors are key, according to a report just out from the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy. They include:

  • Lots of densely situated stations, ideally no more than about 325 yards apart
  • Many bikes (10-30 per 1,000 residents in the coverage area)
  • A sweeping coverage area that's more than six square miles
  • Solid, usable bikes with hardware that discourages theft
  • Easy-to-use stations and payment systems

If you don't have enough bikes and stations in a wide enough area, you're setting a system up for failure.

The ITDP report gives seven cities high marks for their systems, using the number of daily uses for each bike and average daily trips per 1,000 residents as the measures of success. The top cities are:

  • Barcelona (10.8 trips per bike, 67.9 trips per 1,000 residents)
  • Lyon (8.3 trips per bike, 55.1 trips per 1,000 residents)
  • Mexico City (5.5 trips per bike, 158.2 trips per 1,000 residents)
  • Montreal (6.8 trips per bike, 113.8 trips per 1,000 residents)
  • New York City (8.3 trips per bike, 42.7 trips per 1,000 residents)
  • Paris (6.7 trips per bike, 38.4 trips per 1,000 residents)
  • Rio de Janeiro (6.9 trips per bike and 44.2 trips per 1,000 residents)

The ITDP rankings were released as part of its "Bike-Share Planning Guide," a report that aims to help municipal leaders "plan and implement a bike-share system regardless of the location, size, or density of your city."

The report includes some astonishing numbers about the rapid growth of bike-share systems around the world. The first schemes were introduced in the 1960s, but they mostly operated on the honor system and were plagued by theft.

It wasn't until Lyon’s 2001 Vélo'v launch that the current model – in which users pay for rental and are held financially accountable through memberships or credit card use – took off. Now there are more than 400 bike-share systems around the world, with more than 700,000 bicycles, and new systems launching continually.

As we’ve reported, bike-share systems continue to experience growing pains. But they are also winning lasting support among both the public and city leaders who are increasingly seeing them as a hallmark of a forward-thinking city. This report will be a useful tool for those places that want to get it right.

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