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Mobility and Transport

6.1 Bicycle sharing schemes, including rental


Public bike sharing schemes provide access to bicycles for both residents and visitors for use in a city without the need to own a bicycle or bring their own bicycle to the city, which in turn increases the visibility and profile of cycling in the city. Rental options provide a similar service, although are generally smaller, less widespread and are privately owned and operated.

Considerations for applicability

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Level of cycling

Bike share schemes can be introduced in a city with any level of cycling. However, they are often introduced in cities with low levels of cycling in order to encourage cycling and to increase the profile of cycling within the city.

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Urban layout/topography

Bike share schemes and rental services using traditional bicycles are more likely to be effective in relatively flat areas. The inclusion of electric bicycles in a bike share scheme or rental service can help in areas where the local topography (specifically hills) are viewed to be a barrier to cycling. Electric bicycles also enable larger distances to be travelled, so could enable a bike share scheme to cover a larger geographical area.

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Any members of the population could potentially use a shared or rented bicycle. Students and tourists could be potentially important customers of a bike sharing scheme. Students might be interested in cycling but might not have the space to store their own bike, while tourists might be interested in cycling, but may not brought a bicycle with them. In order to enable tourists to use the scheme, it will be important to allow short-term registrations and/or use. Rental services are often targeted at tourists.

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Finance Resources

The cost depends on its size and funding model. Bicycle rental and free-floating bike share schemes (otherwise known as ‘dockless bike sharing’) can come at no cost to local authorities (where they are run by private companies); at the other end of the scale, the cost of a bike share scheme could be significant, although there are models that are potentially low direct cost to the city authority (as in the case of Seville and Ljubljana).

A bike share scheme with a very small number of bikes and a single docking station could cost around €100,000, whereas a scheme with hundreds of bicycles could cost between €1 million and €2 million.

The annual operation costs of a scheme - i.e. to operate and maintain the system - could amount to between €1,200 and €1,500 per bike per year.

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Time & Human Resources

The time and human resources needed from the local authority depends on the model used. The local authority will need to engage with operators of bike share schemes, no matter what model is used, even for free-floating schemes. Bike rentals are usually private and so will need limited public authority input.

For free-floating bike share schemes, the time needed might be limited to making sure that the schemes do not adversely affect the urban environment by blocking routes and access.

For bike share schemes that require docking stations, but which are run by a private operator, engagement with stakeholders and the service provider will be necessary to identify the most suitable locations for docking stations.

If the operation of a bike share scheme is undertaken by the local authority, it will be a lot more time- and resource-intensive compared to implementing the scheme in close collaboration with a company or contracting out the day-to-day operations.

Measure impact highlight

Public transport, bus and cyclist

Modal share

The presence - and use - of shared or rented bicycles in a city will increase the profile of cycling within a city and potentially help to normalise cycling as a means of transport around the city.

Note: An overview of the direct and indirect impacts resulting from correctly implemented cycling measures is available in{Challenges that cities face and how cycling can address them as Link}.

In-depth measure analysis, case studies and further guidance

[collapsed title=Detailed description of the measure]

Key features

In bike share schemes, bicycles are made available for members of the public to use for limited periods, after registration and payment. All systems have bicycles that can be used in return for payment, so a registration and payment system is required, which is increasingly electronic. Most systems also have docking stations or hubs where bicycles need to be or are encouraged to be left, depending on the extent to which the technology is either on the bicycle or on the docking stand. Dockless bike sharing schemes – facilitated by electronic tracking and payment – are becoming popular in some places.

Bicycle rental schemes allow individuals to rent a bicycle for a period of time for a fixed fee. Bicycles are usually rented from, and returned to, the same manned location. However, some larger schemes have a number of collection/drop off points within a city/region. They are aimed primarily at tourists, although can also be used by citizens and commuters.

Bicycle rental schemes differ from bike sharing schemes in that the user typically (but not always) collects and deposits the bicycle from the same location and the bicycle is usually used for a longer period of time (e.g. half a day or a full day compared to the short periods that normally characterises bike sharing). Additionally, one bike is used for the whole rental period, whereas a bike share user could use multiple bikes on a number of one-way journeys in the same time period.

Row of hire bikes

Function and objectives

Bike sharing – and, to an extent, bike rental – are additional ‘mobility service’, one that facilitates a different form of mobility, usually within urban areas, to complement other forms of mobility, particularly public transport and walking. Indeed, if promoted in conjunction with public transport, bike share schemes can enable people to access a much broader area of a city, first using public transport and then a shared bike (or the other way round).

Bike share schemes and bike rental services enable those who are either reluctant to or do not have the means to, buy a bike or do not have the space to store a bike to use to travel around the city. They also provide those visiting a city with access to a bicycle to make local trips or to explore the city (where transporting their own bicycle to the city is difficult, or as part of the tourist experience).

The visibility of bike share schemes – their docking stations and the bicycles being used around the city – also helps to promote cycling in the city and to increase its visibility.

Bike share schemes are relatively cheap to use; bike rental typically costs more (as they are rented over longer periods). Most bike share schemes can be used for a minimal annual subscription. Shorter subscriptions, including weekly and daily passes, can sometimes be bought. While the use of bicycles belonging to some bike share schemes is free for an initial limited period (see the examples of Seville and Ljubljana), others have a ‘pay-as-you-cycle’ option (see Brighton’s example).

Bike sharing schemes range from free-floating services, over which public authorities have minimal control, to services that are fully implemented and operated by public authorities. In between, there are various options for involving the private sector. These include:

  • Handing over the responsibility for the development and operation of the scheme to a company as part of a public-private partnership (as in the case of Sevilla and Ljubljana);
  • Keeping ownership in the public sector, but contracting out the operation of the scheme (e.g. in Brighton); and
  • Undertaking the development and operation of the scheme within the city authority and contracting out only minor elements, such as bicycle redistribution and maintenance (as is the case in Budapest).

The different options are associated with differing degrees of control and responsibility. Taking too much in-house may prevent the dynamic development of the scheme, compared to if it were operated by the private sector; on the other hand, if the private sector has responsibility for the development of the scheme, commercial considerations may act as a barrier to its development.

The type of bicycles that are included in a bike share scheme and bicycle rental services also varies. Most consist predominantly of ‘conventional’ bicycles, i.e. bicycles that are solely ’pedal-powered’ and so have no electric motor. Increasingly, cities are including, or are considering including, electric bicycles in their bike share schemes that have previously consisted only of ‘conventional’ bicycles, e.g. Burgas and Brighton. Some cities, such as Águeda and Slatina, have introduced electric bicycle share schemes as a result of their topography or the type of journey they wanted to promote. If a bike share scheme has electric bicycles, consideration needs to be given to whether or not electric bicycle charging facilities need to be included in (selected) docking stations and if so, where and how many. Bike share schemes and rental services could also include cargo bicycles.

Complementary measures

Bike share schemes should be used in conjunction with other measures to encourage cycling. As the aim of many schemes is to encourage people who do not cycle to start cycling, shared bikes must be safe and easy to use. Consequently, a safe cycling network in the city, which incorporates best practise design of cycle paths (e.g.{Cycle Tracks as Link},{Cycle Lanes as Link},{Grade Separated Crossings as Link}) and{Intersections as Link}, will attract more users of bike share schemes. Additionally, push measures ({Traffic Restrictions and Charges as Link}) that increase the attraction of cycling, such as parking restrictions, higher parking charges, speed limit reduction or access restrictions for motorised traffic, should also be considered.


On their own, the use of shared bikes is likely to be only a small proportion of the cycling undertaken in most cities, let alone the total amount of travel undertaken. For example, in Budapest, it is estimated that the bike share scheme, which has between 1,000 and 4,000 trips a day, accounts for only between 1-2% of the total number of daily cycling trips in the city. Clearly, the extent to which a scheme is used will depend on the scale of the scheme itself and the wider context of the specific city in which it has been implemented. However, a scheme can still generate a significant number of journeys, e.g. Sevilla’s scheme has settled down to four million trips per year – equivalent to 11,000 a day – from its peak in 2009 of over six million trips a year.

On its own, therefore, a public bike sharing scheme is unlikely to have a significant impact in the city. While regular use of a shared bike could have a significant benefit for the health of an individual, a bike share scheme is unlikely to have a noticeable effect on the health of the city’s population more generally. The main impacts, as noted above, are likely to be in relation to improving accessibility and in increasing the visibility of cycling. For example, in Burgas, the increased use of its bike share scheme has been accompanied by an increase in the purchase of bicycles in the city, which has led to a large increase in the number of bicycle shops.

Parameters of success or failure

Shared and rented bikes provide people with the opportunity to use bicycles without the burden of ownership, and the accompanying concerns with storage, theft prevention and maintenance.

While a bike share scheme is potentially beneficial in a city with any level of cycling, introducing a bike share scheme in a city with low levels of cycling is a potentially useful way of increasing the visibility of cycling and of signalling the city authority’s intention to support cycling in the city. Two of the European cities that are now well known for their high levels of cycling, Amsterdam and Copenhagen, both introduced bike share schemes early on in the development of cycling in their cities.

Other measures are also important. For example, the development of safe cycling infrastructure is important to encourage the use of shared bicycles, as well as to encourage others to cycle. Measures to make car use more difficult in certain areas, for example, speed reductions, parking and/or access restrictions, will also help encourage the use of the bike share scheme.

Resources will be needed to set up the scheme and potentially to operate it, although there are models where the scheme is operated privately as part of a partnership with the private sector (see the examples of Seville and Ljubljana).

The location of docking stations is of fundamental importance (see NACTO, 2016). These need to be located where people would potentially cycle to and from, i.e. at the main centres of attraction in the city, and also at public transport nodes to support intermodal integration. Within these locations, docking stations also need to be in positions that are safe and secure, so not putting users in danger from motorised traffic, for example. Even with the best allocation of docking stations, it is likely that there will be a need to redistribute some bicycles at some point, so provision needs to be made for this. Consideration could also be given to integrating the scheme’s registration and payment systems with other similar systems in the city, including the public transport payment system.

Consideration also needs to be given to the space that is used. Finding the necessary space, particularly in historic centres, can be a major challenge. Docking stations could be placed in pedestrian zones, or may need to use space that was previously used for car parking. Hence, the scheme needs to be implemented with the necessary consideration of, and integration with, these other modes.

In order to be attractive to, and safe for, a wide range of users, the bicycles in a bike share scheme need to be designed to ensure that they are easy to use in urban areas. Their design should take into account that they will be used by people of different cycling abilities. The bikes also need to be of a design that people will be happy to use, but not necessarily own. Registration – either physically at a docking station, or online or via a phone app – also needs to be quick and simple. It is important to keep schemes simple so that their design is not a barrier to their use.

A bike share scheme could also be used as a means of introducing users to different types of technology in the transport context, such as the use of apps, smart cards and travel planners. In this way, a bike share scheme potentially provides a starting point to roll out such technologies in the wider transport system and to also prepare the population for the development of other mobility services, including car sharing.

When a bike share scheme has electric bikes, attention needs to be paid to how to ensure that an electric bike is suitably charged for the needs of the next user. An option might be to ensure that the information on the battery level is made accessible to potential users. It will also be important to consider providing electric bicycle charging points in (at least some of) the docking stations, depending on the number of electric bicycles that are available.

Key lessons for transferability

  • Ensure good cooperation with bike share provider, regardless of the type of bike sharing scheme introduced (fixed docking stations or free-floating service) or who operates it. Schemes with fixed docking stations require a close working relationship between the city’s authorities and the scheme’s operator, both for day-to-day operations and for the future development of the scheme. Feedback from the operator is important to enable the city to monitor the performance of the scheme and to plan its development. For free-floating services, it is important for a city administration to work with operators to agree on a basic set of rules to govern their operation.
  • Branding is important to help engage locals with the scheme - the naming and branding of a bike share scheme are important to help locals accept and use the scheme. Schemes usually include a reference to the city in their names, for example, SEVici in Sevilla, BICIKE(LJ) in Ljubljana, Velo Burgas, BeAgueda, MOL BuBi (from ‘Budapest’ and ‘Bicikli’) and BTN BikeShare (Brighton). The bikes in the BTN BikeShare scheme have the same distinctive colours as much of the city’s other city infrastructure, e.g. taxis and the railings within the city. All this helps residents to feel that the scheme is being developed for them by their city.
  • Engagement, promotion and communication are important: A bike share scheme is usually implemented in a city that has not previously had such a scheme. The technology for docking the bikes, and the systems used for registration and payment, will also be new, and possibly different to schemes that people may have used in other cities. Hence, when developing the scheme, it is important to engage with the city’s stakeholders, including its various major landowners, such as shopping centres, and public transport operators. Once implemented, the scheme needs to be promoted. The way to use the scheme must also be communicated using a range of different methods in simple and accessible language.
  • Take time to learn from the experience of other cities: An ever-increasing number of cities have implemented a shared bike system. Each will have implemented it slightly differently, using different models of ownership and operation, as well as different fare structures and technology. In doing so, these cities have developed a wealth of experience. Cities that are considering implementing a bike share scheme can learn from this experience to find out what type of scheme is right for them. They can also learn what cities would, in hindsight, have done differently.
  • Enforcement of free-floating bike share systems can be a challenge for cities: As noted above, good cooperation with the operators of free-floating bike shares is important to agree on a set of operating rules for the city. However, the enforcement of these rules is still a challenge and tends to rely on complaints from members of the public. Otherwise, enforcement falls to other parts of the public sector, which already have many demands on their limited resources.


[collapsed title=Case Studies]

[collapsed title=Publicly-owned bike share scheme (Budapest, Hungary)]

  • Location: Baltics/Eastern/Central
  • Population: Metropolis (1.7 million)
  • Cycling Modal Share: Starter (2%)

Budapest’s MOL Bubi scheme is owned by BKK, the Centre for Budapest Transport that is responsible for elements of Budapest’s transport system. BKK owns all of the scheme’s docking stations and bicycles, as well as its software. Most of the scheme’s operation is also done in-house, apart from the redistribution and maintenance of the bikes and some IT services, which are contracted out. MOL Bubi started in 2014 with 1,100 bikes and 76 docking stations. Each bicycle has an onboard computer and an electronic lock. After two years, the scheme had 112 stations, nearly 1,300 bicycles and 4,000 registered users who together undertake between 1,000 and 4,000 trips a day. Various subscriptions and passes are available, ranging from a day pass to an annual subscription. The scheme appears to be popular with visitors, as one-third of its registered users, and 10% of trips, are associated with a foreign mobile number. MOL Bubi has generally been welcomed by the city’s residents.


Credit: BKK Centre for Budapest Transport


[collapsed title=Publicly-owned bike share scheme (Brighton, UK)]

  • Location: North / North West
  • Population: Medium urban areas (275,800)
  • Cycling Modal Share: Starter (5%)

All of the technology on the bicycles in Brighton’s BTN BikeShare is located on the bicycles. This means that, while users are encouraged to leave bicycles at the formal docking stations, they are also able to leave them at any public bicycle parking location within the wider area (for a small fee), which gives users flexibility. The implementation of new docking stations is relatively easy, as the docking stands are simply bike stands with no technology. BTN BikeShare is effectively a hybrid between those schemes that require bikes to be left only at a docking station and a free-floating scheme. The availability of bikes can be tracked online and on an app. The scheme began in the autumn of 2017, with 450 bikes, 52 hubs and 700 stands in the city centre; an extension is already planned for autumn 2018, with the addition of a further 10 hubs, 120 bicycles and 150 stands. After the first year of the scheme, there were nearly 55,000 registered users, who had made over 350,000 trips covering nearly 700,000 miles. Users can pay a one-off annual subscription or register for a pay-as-you-cycle option, which is charged at three pence per minute. There has been very little negative feedback to date. The city administration owns the infrastructure, including the bicycles, although it has also contracted out the daily operation of the scheme.

A potential future development is the integration of electric bicycles into its bike share scheme, which would allow its expansion into the city’s hilly suburbs and also enable the shared electric bikes to be used for commuting in the wider region.


Credit: BTN BikeShare


[collapsed title=Publicly-owned bike share scheme (Burgas, Bulgaria)]

  • Location: Baltics/Eastern/Central
  • Population: Medium urban area (204,000)
  • Cycling Modal Share: Starter (5%)

Burgas is developing its municipally-owned bike share scheme, Velo Burgas, in a piecemeal way, as its budget allows. The scheme started in 2013 with a small number of docking stations and bicycles and initially only accepted manual payments to use a bicycle. By 2018, the scheme has 14 docking stations, seven of which also have a self-service bicycle maintenance point, and operates 100% on the basis of electronic payments. The city’s authorities plan to more than double the number of docking stations to 30, in order to extend the coverage of the bike share scheme beyond the centre of the city. The city has already introduced electric bicycles into the scheme.


[collapsed title=Public bike sharing scheme set up under a public-private partnership (Seville, Spain)]

  • Location: Mediterranean, South-West Europe
  • Population: Large urban area (690,566)
  • Cycling Modal Share: Climber (6%)

The bike share scheme in Seville has been set up with minimal cost impacts for the local authority. It is operated closely with the private sector, specifically an advertising company, which covers all of the costs of and operates the scheme in return for advertising space within the city. The majority (80%) of the costs of the scheme come from advertising with the remainder coming from user fees. Such schemes enable a city authority to use external expertise. A downside of such an approach is that there is a risk of an over-reliance on the operator for the scheme’s expansion. The city authority also loses potential advertising revenue by handing over advertising space to a private company.

The SEVici scheme was introduced in Seville in 2007. There are 2,500 bicycles and 250 docking stations in the city, with a docking station located every 300 metres, which is similar to the frequency of bus stops. Stations are also located at public transport nodes to help integrate the service with traditional public transport. Bicycles are unisex, have easy gear changes, adjustable seats, enable the carrying of goods in a basket and have theft protection devices. Subscription is either weekly or annually and the first half hour of use is free, after which the costs increase for each additional hour. By 2009, the scheme was so successful – with six million trips per year – that it was effectively being used to capacity, partially as a result of the use of the scheme by students. As a result, the University introduced its own long-term bike rental scheme and the local public transport operator also introduced a bike rental service at its main hub. The use of the scheme has now settled at around four million trips a year.


[collapsed title=Public bike sharing scheme set up under a public-private partnership (Ljubljana, Slovenia)]

  • Location: Southern/Mediterranean
  • Population: Medium urban area (288,250)
  • Cycling Modal Share: Climber (11%)

As with the SEVici scheme in Seville, the BICIKE(LJ) scheme in Ljubljana is operated closely with the private sector. There is also a similar ratio of bicycles to docking stations: Ljubljana has 580 bicycles based at 58 docking stations. The docking stations are located every 300 m to 500 m within the city, while the first hour of use of a bicycle is free and the rates for subsequent hours increase. It is possible to have either an annual or a weekly registration. In 2017, 864,000 trips were made with the shared bike system, which was an increase of 100,000 compared to the previous year. The number of registered users is also still increasing, although at a much lower rate. Holders of the city’s URBANA card, which is a smart card that enables the use of the city’s various public services, including public transport, can use the card to use the shared bikes. The average trip length is only 15 minutes. The scheme has been welcomed by the city’s residents, as 95% see it as positive for the city.


[collapsed title=Electric bike sharing in a hilly starter city (Águeda, Portugal)]

  • Location: Southern/Mediterranean
  • Population: Small urban area (11,729)
  • Cycling Modal Share: Starter (2%)

Águeda introduced an electric bike sharing scheme ‘BeAgueda’ in 2011 in order to encourage people to cycle in the hilly city. In the first phase of the scheme, 10 electric bikes were docked at a station next to the City Hall. The bicycles were used to travel around 40,000 km in their first four years of operation. Users paid a fixed annual fee to use the bikes, after which their use was free. The bikes were available during the day and were then recharged. In response to demand from citizens, the city is now planning to introduce a larger electric bike share scheme, which will have 20 electric bikes stationed at four locations. All bicycles will be fitted with GPS and the system will be complemented by a smartphone app.


[collapsed title=Electric bike sharing for long-distance cycling (Slatina, Romania)]

  • Location: Baltics/Eastern/Central
  • Population: Small urban area (83,566)
  • Cycling Modal Share: Starter (0.7%)

Slatina benefited from a cross-border electric bike sharing project. It has five electric bikes as part of the initiative, which it promoted by organising a bike tour to neighbouring Bulgaria, whose border is 90 km to the south of the city. The city is now planning to integrate these electric bicycles into a bike share scheme that it plans to introduce, which will largely include traditional bicycles.


[collapsed title=Guidance for free-floating bicycle services (Berlin, Germany)]

  • Location: North/North West
  • Population: Metropolis (3.6 million)
  • Cycling Modal Share: Climber (13%)

Unlike with bike share schemes that require physical docking stations, and so which clearly need the engagement of the city’s authorities, free-floating, or dockless, bicycle sharing services are easier for a service provider to set up in a city without engaging with the city’s authorities. This potentially leads to the overuse and overcrowding of public space with parked bicycles. The German capital Berlin has introduced a set of guidelines, which were developed in collaboration with the free-floating service providers that operate in the city, that aim to prevent such situations from happening and so to maintain a positive image for bike sharing schemes more generally.

Berlin has a public bike sharing system, which has 5,500 bikes using 700 stations. However, the city authorities estimate that the scheme accounts for only around one quarter of the shared bicycles in use in the city, with many of the other services being free floating schemes. In order to ensure that the operation of such schemes continues to bring benefits, and does not lead to uncontrolled growth in such services and an ‘abuse’ of public space, the city has developed a series of guidelines for the operation of free-floating services. Prior to the development of the guidelines, the administration held talks with all of the operators of free-floating services in the city.

The guidelines set out the public space, buildings and services that free-floating services must not block or limit access to, and also includes a general requirement that the services must not negatively impact on culturally-sensitive areas. Free-floating bicycles are not allowed to use the facilities of the public bike sharing scheme or be left in parks; there also cannot be more than four free floating bicycles parked at the same time in one location. Citizens can report the breaking of any of these rules online or via an app, and the service operator needs to remove the offending bikes within 24 hours. All operators must also have informed the city authorities and their users of the details of a contact person to facilitate quick communication.



[collapsed title=Key guidance, further reading and references]

ITDP (2018) “The Bike-Share Planning Guide”, 2018 edition;

Velocitta (2017) “Ten Golden Rules for Bike Share Schemes”

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PEBBS (2017) “Policy Framework for Smart Public-Use Bike Sharing”;

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Antoniades and Chrysanthou (2009) “European best practices in bike sharing systems”, report produced as part of ‘Students Today Citizen Tomorrow’ project, co-funded by the EU’s Intelligent Energy Europe Program (IEE); includes case studies

20 JULY 2021
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Beroud and Anaya (2012) ”Chapter 11 Private Interventions in a Public Service: An Analysis of Public Bicycle Schemes”, John Parkin, in (ed.) Cycling and Sustainability (Transport and Sustainability, Volume 1), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 269 – 301;

Deffner, J. et al (2012) “Handbook on cycling inclusive planning and promotion. Capacity development material for the multiplier training within the mobile2020 project”, Section 4 ‘Bike sharing systems’ of Part III (pages 141 to 149)

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Mátrai and Tóth (2016) “Comparative assessment of public bike share schemes”, 6th Transport Research Arena April 18-21;

GTZ (2010) “Public Bicycle Schemes”, recommended reading and links

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Midgeley (2011) “Bicycle-sharing schemes: Enhancing sustainable mobility in urban areas”, Background paper produced for the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs

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NACTO (2016) “Bike Share Station Siting Guide”

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UITP, ECF, PEBSS (2017) “Unlicensed dockless bike sharing”, Position paper

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European Platform on Sustainable Urban Mobility Plans (2016) “The Economic Benefits of Sustainable Urban Mobility Measures – Independent Review of Evidence: Summaries”

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ECF, Bike Sharing Schemes webpage, available at:

ECF, Platform for European Bicycle Sharing & Systems , available at: