It’s an easy equation. More people on bikes equals fewer cars on the road, less pollution, and a healthier population overall. But a quality bike isn’t cheap, and cycling through city streets is especially intimidating for those who aren’t used to it. In other words, it isn’t enough to hope that more people will be inspired to buy a bicycle and completely restructure the way they get around. Like all cultural adjustments, cycling has to be convenient if we want the masses to get on board. For decades, the bike rental system has provided some solutions for the problem of providing bikes to the bike-less. But it’s with the rise of bike sharing systems in major cities that we’ve seen real progress towards improved public transit and reduced car congestion.
Are these bike sharing systems perfect? No. Always effective? Also no. But they are changing our societal relationship to two-wheeled transportation, and conventional bike sharing has paved the way for more effective solutions. Here’s everything you need to know about how the bike sharing system has changed transportation, where rental bikes excel, and how we can combine the best of both worlds.
How the Bike Sharing System Has Changed the Game
When we’re talking about transportation, there is one major distinction to be made between bike rentals and the bike sharing system:
Rental bikes are most often used recreationally, whereas bike shares are used for practical purposes.
In other words, both options provide solutions to keep people out of cars. But the bike sharing system is designed specifically with commuters in mind. Bicycles are available as-needed at conveniently located stations. It’s easy to pick up a bike, and it’s easy to drop it off and lock it. Integrating a bike into the daily commute couldn’t be easier. This means reducing automobile use on a day-to-day basis. The implications of this are huge.
Here are some areas where we’ve already seen change.
Increases Use of Public Transit
There are cities where a bike sharing system is in direct competition with public transit. In densely populated areas with countless bus and train stops, public transportation versus bike sharing is an either/or decision.
But in many more areas, it becomes both/and. Think of those commuters who would love to take the train to work, but the closest station is a mile from their place of business. With the increasing availability of shared bicycles, they can easily grab a bike for the final trek to the office. As a result, we’re seeing more people take advantage of their public transit system in those areas where the options are fewer.
Eases Transit Congestion
As for those dense cities where commuters can choose between the transit system and the bike sharing system? The result is less congested public transit. There is very little price difference between a bus fair and a 30-minute bike share rental in most cities, which makes the decision easy. Who wants to sit on a hot, crowded bus when you could be winding through city streets on an electric bicycle?
Encourages Bike-Friendly Infrastructure
There’s this great cycle of progress that occurs when a city sees more bikes on the road. The infrastructure changes to accommodate those bikes. More bike lanes. More cycle tracks. More multi-use recreational paths. Then what happens? Well, these changes make cycling feel more accessible, easier, and safer for hesitant newbies. As an added bonus, they also make the city safer for low-income residents who might rely on bikes as their primary form of transportation.
Converts New Cyclists
Another interesting discovery of the ongoing bike sharing system experiment is that bike shares bring a greater diversity of riders into the cycling world. The demographics of recreational cycling tend to lean more towards white males with higher incomes. However, studies have shown that the bike sharing system attracts women, young adults, and lower income individuals in greater numbers.
Bike sharing provides a new transportation option for those who would not be able to afford a bicycle otherwise. As for those riders who could buy a bike but have not yet been convinced that it’s a valuable investment, the bike share system has shown itself to be a powerful conversion tool, providing renters with low-cost evidence that life on two wheels is easier than they imagined.
Where the Bike Rental System Excels
Of course, the bike sharing system is far from perfect. While many cities have seen notable reductions in automobile use, other experiments in publicly-operated bike sharing have been less than successful. It’s true that these bike sharing systems make bicycles more accessible, but there are certain benefits to traditional bike rentals that the new bike share model hasn’t been able to match.
Greater Diversity of Bikes
The bicycles available through the bike sharing system are typically identical. While they may have adjustable features, they are all the same size and all the same type. They’re also built for short trips and a lot of abuse. Translation: they’re heavy. If you just want to ride the half-mile between bus lines, they’re a great option. If you want to ride across town, they’re far less practical. A bike rental company, on the other hand, offers everything from mountain bikes to road bikes to cruiser bikes. They have men’s bikes, women’s bikes, and kid’s bikes. These options ensure a more comfortable and enjoyable journey for the renter.
Accommodates for Longer Rides
The bike sharing system you see in most cities is tailor-made for short trips about town. Riders pay for every 30 minutes of riding, which discourages them from going far or taking their time to explore. For commuters, this isn’t a problem. But work isn’t the only reason we leave our homes, and rental bikes provide a healthier alternative for getting out and about on a weekend. When you rent a bike, you’re likely renting for the day. This means you can go anywhere without thinking about the running meter.
Nurtures a Love of Cycling
The benefit of a bike sharing system is that it makes cycling convenient. But if we want to see more change in the way people approach their transportation—especially people who don’t have to pinch pennies or commute downtown—cycling needs to be fun. The fun is pretty limited when it comes to bike shares. You interact with a machine to get a clunky bike that you ride for ten blocks before dropping it off with a different machine.
Bike rentals are a great introduction to bike culture. A living, breathing human connects you with the perfect bike for your plans. They give you tips on how to use it and suggest great routes around town. You leave the shop with a rental bike that’s going to be comfortable and fun to ride.
The Best of Both Worlds
Suffice to say, both these systems are great, but neither one is perfect. That’s where services like Spinlister comes in.
Spinlister is a bike sharing service that connects renters with local cyclists looking to share their personal bicycles. Listers set their own prices, but on average, the cost to rent a bicycle through Spinlister is much less than you’d spend at a bike rental shop. You can rent by the hour, the day, the week—there are several options to choose from whether you’re looking to have a day-long adventure or make a short trip across town. Renters will also find a wide range of bike options, so you can find the bicycle that fits your specific needs.
Perhaps most importantly, the Spinlister system connects renters with the local cycling culture. Whether they’re new to biking or just new to town, Spinlister is far more personal than a traditional bike sharing system. It puts you in touch with other cyclists and allows you to explore the roads and bike paths of a new city using the best possible equipment.