It is now ten years since the launch of the world's first large scale bike-sharing scheme, Velib in Paris. Since then, a thousand other schemes have been launched - bikeshare systems are now prevalent across the globe - popping up all the way from Manchester to Melbourne.
Geographic growth has been accompanied with innovation - traditional docked schemes have been joined by dockless free floating systems. Born out of universities in China, companies such as oBike, Ofo, and MoBike have revolutionised bikesharing allowing cyclists to leave their bikes anywhere in a city, not limited to specific stations.
Despite a divergence in the types of bikeshare systems, the role of data in enhancing the customer is ubiquitous in both. Docked systems communicate the availability of bikes at nearby stations so users can remotely check to see if a bike is available. To avoid users having to spend time searching for a bike, free-floating schemes make GPS data available so nearby bikes can be found quickly. In both cases data is used to help the user easily find an available bike so they can quickly start their journey.
Citymapper, a global journey planner, has recently started to include data from the Santander Cycles bikeshare scheme in its London application. Combining information from bikeshare schemes and the intelligence of journey planners in this way has the potential to greatly enhance the bikeshare experience. Here are three possible benefits.
1. Identifying faster, safer routes
The nearest bike is not necessarily the best option. A journey planner will account for the bikes location relative to the destination. This will provide the fastest possible journey, accounting for time both walking to the bike and cycling. In the case of docked systems, it will also account for dock availability at the end of a journey, there's no point in arriving at a station to find all the docks full.
In addition, the route chosen will take advantage of the journey planner's built in knowledge of cycling routes. These routes combine speed and safety, ensuring comfortable fast routes are taken advantage of. With bikeshare data empowered in the journey planner bikeshare users can make the most of a city's cycling infrastructure.
2. Encouraging new riders through multi-modal journeys
A great benefit of bikeshare schemes is the way they encourage incorporating cycling with other modes of transport. For example, you could take the train from Edinburgh to Kings Cross and then, using a Santander bike, cycle the final part of your journey through central London.
However, these trips often require complex planning and a wider knowledge of the bikeshare system and city. A journey planner, through its routing engine, could bridge this knowledge gap by automatically planning multi-modal journeys. Travellers may have no idea a bike could fit so nicely into their journey. These additional, previously unconsidered journeys could allow users to avoid a change of trains at a busy station or speed up the 'final mile' of a trip from a station.
3. Improving reliability through rebalancing
Bikes need to be found where journeys start. If travellers can't rely on a bike being nearby when they need it, they will not incorporate it into their regular trips. Rebalancing trucks for docked systems are used in some cities to deal with this problem, however these are costly, both financially and environmentally
Increasingly schemes also use rider benefits to encourage users to take bikes from less to more popular starting points. For example, some free-floating schemes offer free journeys, Capital bikeshare a docked system in Washington offer prize draw tickets and membership extensions. However, in both cases the benefits are only offered through the systems application to proactive users and therefore don't encourage a large enough volume of movement.
Involving journey planners in this process offers two advantages. Firstly, the benefit is advertised to far more people so people may not be aware they could cycle home for free instead of paying for the tube. Secondly and more significant, those exposed to the benefit are targeted based on their journey choice - their final destination combines well with the rebalancing needs of the bikeshare system.