One Size Fits Nobody; Will the Netherlands Still Share the Bicycle?


How it began

In 2016, all of a sudden, they were there: shared bicycles. Because of their size, solid rubber tyres, and the lack of gears, they were not a success. They quickly disappeared from the streets and local by-laws were amended to prevent a recurrence.

Nevertheless, shared bicycles have potential. They can lead to fewer bicycles (because a shared bicycle is used more often), fewer orphan bicycles (because you no longer need a second or third bicycle), and less bicycle parking inconvenience (because technology in the bicycle obliges you to park in designated places). Above all: shared bicycles are interesting at times when you do not have your own bicycle with you, for example at bus and train stations for travelling that last mile to your destination.

The poor start with shared bikes has led to a stalemate: governments remain reluctant to introduce shared bikes, but because of this we notice very little of the potential.

How to proceed?

We have gained a lot of experience with shared bikes in recent years. Through research, pilots and many discussions with governments, companies and providers, we have come to understand the concept of shared bikes better and better. In this blog we share our four most important lessons to break the deadlock.

1.What problem do you solve?

A silly question, but one we often don't dare to ask. Shared bicycles are hip, improve accessibility, lead to fewer orphaned bicycles, and seem to be a prerequisite for turning your municipality into a world cycling city. At least, that is what they say.

However, as long as shared bicycles do not meet a specific need, they have no value. Shared bicycles should therefore contribute to mobility in a city. What that mobility is, depends on the users you want to serve. Because one size fits nobody. That's why it's essential to immerse oneself in the users: why will the commuter/student/employee/tourist take the shared bicycle?

The next phase only starts once the added value of the shared bicycle has been determined. And then three aspects are indispensable: a user-friendly system, facilitating local government, and close cooperation between stakeholders.

2.A user-friendly system

Do you want to return the shared bike back to the starting point or do it anywhere? Open with an app or QR code? Need a subscription? Discount for companies? Available everywhere or only at hubs? Also in the countryside? Shared bicycle systems come in many shapes and sizes. That is why it is important to choose a system that suits both the mobility in the city and the specific user group(s). This requires customization.

3.A facilitating local government

Local government plays an indispensable role in achieving a successful shared bicycle system. Even a shared bike system in which the provider relieves you of all your worries requires a lot from the government. Think about the designation of shared bike locations, adjusting policy rules, instructing enforcement, and possibly even signage or parking facilities. In other words, without a facilitating local authority, there can be no successful shared bicycle system.

4.Close cooperation between stakeholders

The shared bicycle supplier and local government cannot do it alone. Users need to hear about the shared bikes, become familiar with them, and be encouraged to use them. Experience shows that large employers and educational institutions can make an important contribution here. They have a large group of potential users within easy contact, can realise parking locations, and sometimes even stimulate the use of shared bicycles with terms and conditions of employment. Moreover, students can do research on the system and are themselves a potential large user.

So make sure you have a clear objective, choose the right system and ensure good cooperation with both local public and private parties. This is the only way to break the deadlock and get the Netherlands sharing bicycles.

Want to talk more? We would be happy to talk to you about how our four lessons can help your city or area. Just connect with me. 

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