Five Lessons for Making Bike Share a Success in India

Ranjana Menon
The City Fix
July 30, 2015

To combat rising rates of private vehicle ownership and ensure a healthy, sustainable future for their citizens, Indian cities—like Jodhpur—need to focus on making bike share work for the local context. (Photo: Tomas Belcik / Flickr)

Public Bicycle Sharing (PBS), or bike share, as it is more popularly known, was first introduced in Amsterdam in 1965. While the concept spread to various European cities, it remained largely experimental in nature and small in scale. It wasn’t until the late 1990s and early 2000s—with the incorporation of advanced smartcards and progress in Information and Communication Technology (ICT)—that bike share came to be viewed as an innovation with significant potential to promote cycling and sustainable urban mobility.

Since then, bike share has witnessed tremendous growth and widespread adoption. As of 2013, there were 639 bike share systems across 53 countries, with a combined fleet of nearly 650,000 bicycles.

Studies have shown that bike share increases modal share for cycling, creates safer roads, improves health, and reduces gender disparities. Bike share also wields benefits for traditional modes of transport, as it has the potential to reduce stress on congested systems in dense urban areas and increase access to public transport in less dense regions by acting as a last mile connector.  Around the world, bike share has come to be seen as an effective instrument in the sustainable urban mobility arsenal.

India, however, remains behind the curve in bike share. Several small scale pilots have been attempted in cities like Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Delhi, and Mumbai. Unfortunately, these attempts have failed to scale-up into large city-wide systems, and are no longer active. While they were primarily led by well-intentioned individuals, the lack of significant government support prevented the expansion of these initiatives beyond the pilot stage.

In the future, it is essential that the planning of these systems incorporates both the lessons learned from Indian pilot initiatives and the best practices from successful systems around the world.

The 5 key lessons for Indian cities looking to implement bike share systems are:

 1.  Go Big
 2.  Invest in Quality
 3.  Get the Business Model Right
 4.  Adapt to the Indian Context
 5.  Build Interest

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