Bike Lending in North America: Understanding Business Models, User Acceptance, Social Equity, and Public Safety
Bicycle lending is a growing phenomenon within cities and towns across the country. Bike lending libraries allow people to check out bicycles, much like checking out a library book, for a set period of time and return it after the term is up or they have finished with it. Bike lending is different from bike rental or bike sharing in that most lending arrangements do not involve an exchange of money. Bike lending libraries exist to serve several different use cases and purposes. One of the main purposes of bike lending libraries is to allow people to use certain types of bicycles that they do not need all the time. To better understand the role and potential that bike lending libraries may have on the growth of bicycling as well as on the safety and social equity of access to riders, we first need an understanding of the scope and scale of bike lending initiatives across North America. This study will explore the topic by 1) conducting a literature review, 2) building an online census of bike lending operations in North America, 3) conducting expert interviews with operators, 4) conducting a survey of operators, and 5) conducting a focus group of users/lendees. The results will be synthesized in a final report.
The project primarily supports the US DOT priorities of Safety, Equity, and Climate and Sustainability Research. It supports the priority of safety by improving our understanding of how bike lending programs expand access to bicycles, particularly e-bikes, through training that enables people to use bicycles in a manner that is safer than they would otherwise. The priority of Equity is served through the populations that bike lending operations in-part serve. Bike lending often serves lower income populations interested in e-bike access, but may not have the space or assets to easily afford the acquisition or storage of such bicycles. Bike lending operations in this way expand access to mobility for broader populations. Finally, the project serves the priority of Climate and Sustainability by expanding exposure to e-bikes, which are capable of traveling longer trip distances and thus serve greater mode substitution of automotive trips. The greater exposure to e-bikes may lead to an expanded market for the vehicle, which, relative to gasoline powered trips has a number of climate and sustainability benefits.
The research will produce a final report that synthesizes a large amount of operator information on bike lending operators across North America. The research will also establish a census of bike lending operators that can be updated and used to build on future research.
The outcome of the research shall be a vastly improved understanding of bike lending operators within the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The report will aim to produce a first-of-its-kind synthesis of the operations and impacts that bike lending operators have in advancing access to e-bikes and the safety of their use. The census of bike lending operators will be designed to be updatable and provide a benchmark for the research community to reference for future evaluations in this and related subjects.
06/01/2023 to 05/31/2024
University of California Berkeley
University of California Berkeley
Research Project Funding