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Our approach to city-proof bike-sharing

by Harry Maxwell, on November 8, 2021

5 MIN READ

Tackle vandalism, maintenance costs and the price of heavy, inactive assets on your books with inspired hardware decisions.

When planning a bike-sharing scheme, challenges include (but are not limited to):

  1. Vandalism
  2. Finding hardware with low maintenance costs
  3. Expensive, inactive assets

These factors must be taken into consideration when choosing your bikes and stations - to ensure the longevity of your service.

Reducing vandalism with flexible docking infrastructure

Prevention is better than cure


CoMoUK gives great advice on reducing vandalism during the operating phase, including community engagement interventions and greater involvement from the police. The choice of technology, however, has an even greater role to play when thinking about damage to the service.

When it comes to bike-sharing, parking infrastructure is probably the most crucial part.They keep bikes neat and tidy for advertising partners and citizens and, in the case of electric bikes, recharge the fleet. Naturally, they provide additional security against inappropriate use and theft.

Challenge the status quo

We wanted to rethink the traditional docking system and create a charging station that only uses as much space as it needs - the perfect choice for building mobility hubs.

The first bike connects to the station through electromagnets located on the frame of each bike, and every bike thereafter connects to the frame of the one before.

Ultra-compact stations are less conspicuous than traditional docks and are less likely to cause friction with pedestrians and other modes of transport.


Safety in numbers

Whilst multiple dock stations are robust, they can leave most of a bike exposed, as pictured below.

Source: Curbed

On the other hand, with a compact station, the bikes are secured so close together - making each one less isolated - and making them far more difficult to vandalise.

Furthermore, lightweight (and less expensive) charging/docking infrastructure allows for a more comprehensive coverage of an area. The more inclusive a service is, the more its used by the population, and the more people take care of it.

Discover ultra-comptact stations
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Limiting maintenance costs with city-proof electric bikes


Thinking ahead

It’s also important to decide what characteristics you want your bikes to have before you launch. Design choices in the bikes themselves will require your bikes to have either more or less maintenance during the operating phase. A slightly higher initial investment can sometimes generate considerable savings in the operating phase.

Below, we’ve detailed a few potential choices you could make when choosing the right bikes for your scheme.

6 things to consider when choosing a hardware partner
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Decisions, decisions...

Airless tires: A relatively new trend is to use fleet bikes with airless tires. The theory is that they won’t go flat so they need less maintenance - this is true. However, airless tires have a higher rolling resistance and heat build-up dissipates when they are in action, giving the rider more work to do. They also increase wheel weight and make for a less comfortable ride on rough/bumpy surfaces.

Disc or drum brakes: Disc brakes offer higher stopping power, even in wet weather conditions, but are more expensive than drum brakes. However, drum brakes need more maintenance than disc brakes and, when the vehicle heats up, the braking force in drum brakes becomes even less effective. More and more cities are explicitly requesting disc brakes for rider safety.

Anti-theft technology: Should your vehicle have an anti-theft alarm to deter vandalism and/or theft, even when it seems like no one is around? Investing slightly more in a bike that can ‘defend’ itself could save on maintenance costs (as well as entire vehicle replacements).  

These are just a few ideas.

Remedying balance sheet headaches

Is it all doom & gloom?

“Shared bikes typically have zero resale value, and most of their parts cannot be reused”.

- CoMoUK

It would be fair to say that, in the past, shared bikes have produced significant waste - and at great costs to cities and operators. One just has to take a look at the bicycle graveyards in China (pictured below) to see that waste that has historically been attributed to bike sharing schemes.

Source: Wired

Fast-forward less than a decade, and this is no longer the case. The gung-ho approach to bike-sharing schemes has been replaced by a much more reasonable ‘measure twice, cut once’ philosophy, in collaboration with public authorities. Cities see each of their mobility schemes as a part of a collective whole, where each mode communicates with another. They therefore pay special attention to the partners selected to carry out these mobility projects.

Long-life, recyclable materials

Today, we would shared bikes should last at least 5 years, factoring in the replacement of some parts along the way. Considering that the first generations of vehicles lasted months (occasionally breaking the 'year' mark), the progress is evident.

Spare parts play a crucial role because the more standardised they are, the easier they are to replace - and the longer the life of the same bike will be.

Equally as important, is the second life of the hardware when it reaches the end of its 'useful life'.

At Zoov and Smoove, we create a second life for materials in two ways:

Recovery

  • Whole bikes: At the end of our contract with the Clermont-Ferrand (France), and with help from several local workshops, we set up a scheme to repurpose the entire fleet of 500 bikes so that they can be used by people in need.

  • Spare parts: Smoove and Zoov regularly donate several hundred functional kickstands, pedals, mudguards and wheels to various associations.

Recycling

Visit our sustainability report
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Getting ready to launch or upgrade your bike-sharing scheme?

With a range of hardware and software solutions to suit sharing or long-term leasing, we can tailor our schemes to your needs.

Contact us