Paying for bike sharing systems: Examples and trends
- AUTHOR Aris Moro
- PUBLICATION DATE December 2019
Cities in Latin America aiming to promote sustainable mobility, and cycling in particular, should consider establishing a bicycle-sharing system. These systems can be an important element of a city’s transport infrastructure and are relatively cheap to implement. There are a multitude of financing and funding options available. It is not necessary to resort to public investment or subsidies, as private sector companies can cover both the capital and operating costs of a bike-sharing system.
This report, part of an upcoming academic collection of contributions about bike-sharing in Latin America, outlines the available financing and funding options for such systems. Cities in Latin America have followed a variety of these financing models. Buenos Aires initially owned and operated its BSS, Ecobici, which is subsidised and free to all users. In Mexico City, the city owns the assets behind Ecobici, but the system is operated by Clear Channel Outdoors, an advertising agency. Other schemes, like Bike Rio, are run entirely by private companies based on a concession.
There is already a wealth of experience in Latin America about how to create a financially sustainable and successful scheme, whether publicly or privately owned, or publicly or privately operated. Despite some setbacks, the sector has seen significant growth, particularly in the last few years.
Business models need to be based upon a careful consideration of what a bike-sharing system can do for a city and on whether the city has the capacity to plan and manage such a system. The bike-sharing sector has seen dramatic changes recently and it is not clear that past examples and experiences will be relevant for much longer. It is also not clear how they apply to small and medium-sized cities. The trialling of permitting systems for dockless companies and the emergence of new, hybrid models, together with national efforts to promote the establishment of bike-sharing systems, promise to drive growth in the sector and innovation around financing and funding going forward.