Bike sharing: A contribution to sustainable mobility or a luxury we can’t afford?

Ricci, M. (2013) Bike sharing: A contribution to sustainable mobility or a luxury we can’t afford? In: RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2013: New paradigms in conceptualising shared mobility, Royal Geographical Society, London, 26-29 August 2013. Available from:

Full text not available from this repository

Publisher's URL:


The paper focuses on a particular form of ‘shared mobility’ that has become increasingly popular in recent years: bike sharing. The term ‘bike sharing’ refers to unattended short-term cycle hire offering residents and visitors a non-motorised, active form of transport in urban areas, based on a network of strategically located bicycles. Few bike sharing schemes were introduced the 1970s but their number and size have massively grown only in the last decade, with the London Barclays-sponsored ‘Boris bikes’ being a particularly emblematic example. Over 500 schemes are reported to be operating across the globe, mostly in Europe, but also in North America and Asia. Setting up a bike sharing scheme requires the mobilisation of a variety of stakeholders, including both public and private actors with varying degrees of participation and resource commitment. However, in virtually all cases a public subsidy is needed to cover the capital and operating costs, which can be significant in large schemes such as the Paris-based Velib or the Barclays Cycle Hire. In current times characterised by economic austerity, different forms of active travel policy interventions might have to compete for already stretched public resources. This paper seeks to understand whether the case for bike sharing - as the recipient of public funding - has been adequately made, by looking at a range of international examples and examining the bold claims made about the direct and indirect benefits of bike sharing, including positive health impacts and reduced CO2 emissions. Drawing on the evaluation work carried out for the EU-funded CIVITAS Renaissance project, which amongst other measures introduced a bike sharing scheme in Bath, the paper examines how bike sharing works, critically assesses the available evidence around its associated costs and benefits, and proposes an alternative way of conceptualising, and evaluating, bike sharing.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Uncontrolled Keywords:bike sharing, cycling, sustainable mobility, sustainable transport, active travel
Faculty/Department:Faculty of Environment and Technology > Department of Geography and Environmental Management
ID Code:22254
Deposited By: Dr M. Ricci
Deposited On:09 Jan 2014 12:34
Last Modified:15 Nov 2016 23:03

Request a change to this item

Document Downloads

Total Document Downloads

More statistics for this item...