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Re: [WorldCityBike] What is the purpose of those 30 or 45-min time limits on bike share?

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  • Peter Smith
    I can t promise there s a lot new/interesting here, but I read all responses at least 10 times, and thought about them a lot, did what other research I could,
    Message 1 of 10 , May 17, 2012
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      I can't promise there's a lot new/interesting here, but I read all responses at least 10 times, and thought about them a lot, did what other research I could, including asking other researchers/experts as I could find them.

      A few things stood out. I haven't quoted anyone, so I'll just re-word and re-use some answers to my queries. The bike time limits, I was told by one person, served at least three purposes:
      1. To encourage a bike is returned when no longer needed, so others may use it. I like this response a lot because it doesn't hide behind what i consider to be dubious-at-best ride or trip length statistics (average bike trip times can't be known with strict time limits in place, the same way democracy can't be known where an occupying army is in place [shoot, it's just about impossible even without an occupying army!]), and it doesn't ascribe evil to all of humanity (most people will keep the bikes even when not using them just because they are anti-social), while leaving room for human frailty/error -- people can be lazy, inconsiderate, and/or even antisocial, and it's ok to do some social engineering. It also suggests that a bike ride of longer than 30 or 45 minutes can even be useful and 'needed'. It also doesn't offer dubious-at-best assertions from certain, unnamed Boston-area bike share systems like, "We don't do bike rentals, we do transportation."  
      2. To not steal recreational business from a local bike rental shop. I have no idea if this is a real concern. The entire San Jose area does about 3 bike rentals per day, probably, across all of the city's bike shops. Most of those rentals are probably along one of our multi-use paths/trails. Regardless, it sounds reasonable. Bike rentals are big business in NYC, SF, DC, and just about every touristy town. For me, though, I think there's a way to protect local bike rental shops to a certain extent while still serving the greater good.  
      3. The usage fees are there to help pay for the service too. Ah -- this is the one I'm most curious about. Do all these fees actually add up to anything significant? I have no idea, but am more than a little curious to know.
      If 30 minutes travel time is ideal, then why are NYC, Montreal, and Ottawa doing 45 minutes for at least some members? Why are Miami Beach, Chattanooga, and Boulder doing 60 minutes? Why is Houston doing 90 minutes? If the reason is only or mostly that some cities are extra big or spread out or not dense or that the bikes are spread out or whatever, I'm open to that explanation -- it just doesn't feel like there's much rhyme or reason to why these particular time limits are being chosen.

      Why are we not doing decongestion pricing around peak times instead of just picking some arbitrary time limit to bring the bikes back by? If I check a bike out at 8:30 PM (off-peak time), why should i have to bring it back in just 30 minutes (while there are multitudes of bikes still available)? Is that the same as checking it out at 8:30 AM (during the morning rush, when few/no bikes will be available)? I figure there are 2-4 peak use times -- morning rush, lunchtime, evening rush, bar closing time (and who knows on weekends?) -- we should consider this for 4th generation systems/pricing schemes. If someone has a long trip to make, and they're not going to get charged a zillion dollars, they might just make that trip on bike on the weekend since they don't have to be back at work.

      And if a minuscule 10 cents/bag grocery store fee/tax is enough to significantly change behavior of food shoppers, why do the bike share fees have to be so high comparatively? Is human nature surrounding bag fees significantly different than human nature surrounding bike fees?

      Who decided that bike share systems should be primarily or only for short trips?

      Why did these people decide to pigeon-hole bike share systems to be primarily or only for short trips? Is it because they're an advertising firm or some other private entity that doesn't actually have the public interest at heart, but instead has a profit motive that trumps the public interest? If so, we need to recapture control of these systems? They're perfect for worker co-ops. I like Minneapolis' NiceRide -- they have some kind of 501(c3) org that owns/runs the bikeshare -- not a bankster nor an adster nor anyone else who has no business being in the business of bike-sharing.

      What is a short trip? Is it short if it is less than 15 minutes by car? Is a short trip by bus the same as a short trip by car the same as a short trip by bike? Is 5 miles a short trip? In San Jose, CA, I take short trips by car all the time. I can go 10 miles in about 11 minutes. That's definitely a short trip to me. That is, it's a short car trip. But it'd be a long bike trip. 

      The purpose is to maximize the use of the asset to accomplish many trips by multiple users, not to provide a bike to someone for $75-$95/year.

      There are lots of ways to talk about this issue, but this i think this gets to the heart of it very well. Well said!

      Some questions to ask:
      1. Is there any reason we should fight against the idea of providing a bike to someone for $75-$95/year? To make the hypothetical a bit more realistic, we'll stipulate that, in a city of 1 million people, we'd have a $10 Million city/taxpayer startup fund to buy bikes/infrastructure, there would be some type of fees associated with peak hours usage (to keep bikes available), that local bike rental shops would be effectively closed down/subsumed (we'd find a way to give them 10-year maintenance-type contracts to ease their transition or just buy them out), and we'd have enough money to operate and expand on a year-to-year basis (through government subsidies, membership rates, taxing pollution from motorized transport, etc.), and any fees collected would go to some innocuous cause (to make sure we're not just trying to generate revenue which would cause decreased biking).
      2. Should bike-sharing as we now effectively know it be that system (with the modifications we talked about)? 
      3. Why or why not?
      4. If not, can we create another, new PBS-type system that is suitable for long and medium-range trips only or additionally -- that would obviously need to be exempted from the stiff 'overtime' fines/penalties? Or do we just have to tell people to go out and buy their own private bikes and possibly establish their own bike sharing systems?
      If $75-$95/year would not get us a bike to share for the year, what would it cost to provide this service? $175-$195/yr? More? Less? Assume we had decongestion pricing applied.

      $200/yr would be worth it to me -- that's less than $20/mo. The rules? During peak hours, free rides are limited to 30 minutes, with somewhat steep per-minute charges after that. Outside peak hours, 3-hour time limits with very gradually increasing, per-minute charges after the 3-hour mark. 

      In theory, in the future I'd be able to spend that money in a pre-tax way like car parkers ($240/mo) and motorized transit users ($125/mo) can do. 

      To ride my local transit agency (VTA), it costs about $800/yr for a transit pass. Could we just officially make bike sharing a part of the local public transit pass? How many people you think would wait around for a bus to show up then?

      In the US, 51% of trips are 3 miles or less.  An additional 13% of trips are 3-5 miles.  Even on a heavy bike (public bikes are comparatively heavy), except in topographically challenged conditions, trips of these lengths can be made in 30 minutes.  That's 64% of all trips.

      These numbers seem dubious to me. In any case, I don't think bike share bikes should be an option for only 64% of trips. When we go from 30 minutes to 45 minutes, that's great -- a huge improvement -- now, what about going to 60 minutes?

      The point of short periods of use is to maximize the use of the bikes, which are expensive to operate in a hardened system (with docks, kiosks, etc.).  The cost of the bike/system runs about $5000+/bike.  The operational cost is about $2000/year, not including decent marketing and the costs to the municipality of oversight and management.

      I agree with the later statement that 'more research is needed'. A 'short period' is what? 30 minutes? 45? 60? 90? 

      Also, what should we be willing to pay for a bike system? Let's say it's $10,000/bike/year (estimate using capital + operating costs stated above). Is that more than a bus system? More than a train system? More than a car system?  My guess it that it's a fraction of the cost -- direct and indirect -- of all those. 

      The notion that bike share systems should have to pay for themselves (NYC) is not helpful.

      It's cheaper to give people bikes than it is to let them use the public bike sharing system for 4 hours at a time.

      That may be true, but I believe it's either irrelevant, or it would be unhelpful to do so. Access to bikes is not the main reason people don't ride -- it's a legitimate fear of cars. 

      After that, though, there are many factors that make biking difficult to impossible for more people -- no place to store your bike at home, difficulty getting it out of/into your home, difficulty maintaining the bike, no place to park the bike at your destination, fear of theft, etc. Bike share systems address all off these issues very well -- this is part of why these systems are so popular. Having a public bike share system may cost more than giving everyone a private bike to use, and that's fine -- it's worth a lot more. Stated another way, for most users, having access to a bike share bike is worth more in utility value than being given a private bike -- a lot more. 

      Anyway, I haven't seen good data on distance that people are willing to bike.  My sense is that most people will ride up to three miles. Since that can capture so many trips currently driven, that works for me.  Me, I am willing to ride 10-12 miles to get somewhere.

      I get that. 

      On the other hand, we've got multiple concurrent escalating/exacerbating/complicating emergencies -- some or all of them can be addressed effectively with bikes and bike-share -- I think shooting for 'just' the short trips is not good enough. Stretching John Pucher's "Making Cycling for Everyone" pitch potentially past its logical breaking point, I'd argue that to make cycling or bike share for everyone we need to target not just short trips but long trips and every type of trip in between as well. One can imagine that facilitating longer bike share trips, either based on distance or time, would serve short-distance/time travelers well, too, just as highways/freeways have done for car travel.

      Right now, I think it is not helpful that one would have to check-in multiple times during a longer commute. It makes going by bike share less attractive than it would otherwise be, and we should not accept that. 

      Thinking of it another way, we should be encouraging the taking of long trips by bike share because these trips would typically be done by bus/train/car. I think if a person rides more than 'x' miles in 'y' amount of time (either total or as-the-crow-flies), we should consider rewarding that user somehow. Right now, not only do we not reward these users, we actually penalize them. And maybe that's the way it has to be -- but I doubt it.

      Or maybe we need a certain amount of bikes at each station that are 'long haul' bikes that you can keep for extended periods of time (and maybe you pay for the privilege?), just like we need some that are cargo bikes, some that are smaller (for children or shorter people), bikes with child seats, etc. -- and maybe you pay for all those privileges, too? 

      This gets back to the time budget research, which says that people are most likely willing to spend about 30 minutes getting somewhere.

      I'd like to see this research. I know tens/hundreds(?) of thousands of Bay Area commuters regularly spend over 30 minutes getting somewhere -- walking, biking, driving, busing, training, etc. Shoot -- the shortest public transit trip in most of America is probably at least 30 minutes -- you have to walk to your stop, wait, get on the bus/train, and then walk to your destination. One of my typical transit trips is 4.1 miles. According to Google Maps, by car it takes me about 8 minutes -- by walk/bus/walk it takes me 32 minutes -- these seem about correct to me. The bus trip would only be this short, however, if I timed it perfectly, if the bus wasn't late (or too early -- happens a lot), etc. In another instance, it takes me 11 minutes to drive to a destination that would take me at least an hour to walk/train/walk to. Maybe that research differentiates between active transport like walking/biking, and motorized transport where it's somewhat difficult to multitask (driving), and where it's possible/easy to multi-task (bus, train, etc.)?

      Thinking about it logically, personally, I'll bike a zillion miles if there is appropriate infrastructure. Right now, I bike almost nowhere -- it's literally close to zero miles on a daily basis (I have a cool, old road bike that decorates my kitchen.). I'll occasionally make an exception for some crazy road trip, or some drinking festival or whatever else, but I basically don't bike. BUT, if you gave me a 1-mile cycletrack that went somewhere -- anywhere -- I'd probably ride it at least once a day just for the heck of it. Give me a 5-mile cycletrack that went somewhere -- anywhere -- I'd probably ride it at least once a day just for the heck of it. And I'd even consider using it for other tasks. Point is -- without appropriate infrastructure, we can't really know how far people will bike. Maybe we can look at places like The Netherlands and some places in Denmark to know? 

      Anyway, I don't see what the big deal is.  At least, providing that the bike system has density and breadth.  The real issue is sprawl.  Biking makes a lot of sense in dense places--cities.  It's a lot harder if you live in sprawl.  Even so, that 51% of trips number is national, and even in the suburbs, many trips can be captured by the bike, provided that there is adequate infrastructure and accommodation (high quality bike parking--secure and protected, etc.).

      I believe we are significantly limiting the role that bike share systems can have -- probably by at least 50% -- due to a less than optimal pricing/usage model. It's difficult to know, though, because there doesn't seem to be a lot of interest in actually finding out. I've tried to read through some of the research on 'rebalancing operations', which is at least somewhat related to 'bike share system utility' and number of trips, but I can't figure it out. Please feel free to enlighten me if anyone can. Little to none of it has looked at time limits specifically/directly -- that i can tell -- and my sense is that longer time limits would yield a greater demand for bikes at all times of day, and specifically/problematically at peak usage times. At off-peak times,  the impact of longer time limits on bike availability would be minor.

      I could understand if we suggested these short (or even shorter) time limits (with a max-single-user-per-time-period rule) during peak times -- in that case we'd explicitly be stating, "Hey -- during these peak periods we are reserving the bikes specifically for work/important/short activities/trips because we just don't have enough bikes to go around, and we want an equitable system so we want to give everyone a shot at riding a bike during the limited rush hour time window, so there will be no fun nor exercise nor non-utilitarian trips on these bikes during this time because it will likely be costing you to use the bikes during this time window, and you won't want to do that anyways." That makes sense to me. But an arbitrary time limit at all times of day? Not so much.

      So, my advice is to:
      1. Increase the supply of bikes,
      2. Increase the 'free' time limits,
      3. Decrease the penalty for bikes kept past the time limit, including charging per minute instead of per-half hour,
      4. Study effects of time limits and fees, decongestion pricing, etc., and adjust all accordingly until you achieve a reverse-Shoup-like balance of high utilization with at least one or two available bikes (in case you want to ride with a friend) in all racks at all times, 
      5. Repeat steps 1-4 as often as necessary until we've hit the natural limit of bike share usefulness.
      If we have to subsidize bike share systems more (or at all), then we should give it serious consideration, especially as it seems to compare favorably to the motorized forms of transport we subsidize so heavily.

      I think biking makes a lot of sense everywhere -- even though it may be a lot harder if you live in sprawl. We know not-densely-populated areas of The Netherlands are at 40%+ bicycle mode shares, so all suburbs/non-cities have to be made walk/bike-friendly, even if we do decide they should not, for whatever reason, have bike share.

      For to avoid accumulation of the bikes. Take into account the human nature.
      To avoid situations, when someone cycles to the park, keeps the bike next to the bench and is reading a book for whole afternoon.
      It will be anti-social behaviour, like using the lift in the office for to ride to the top floor, put the chair in its doors, to keep it, and going to the toilet "just for a minute". The bikes HAVE TO MOVE. And registration, when bike is rented and returned, allows to use more efficiently the re-location vehicles.

      I think the idea that people will keep bikes is incorrect. Most bikers love the ability to dump their bikes in a safe place -- it's one of the main reasons we do not currently bike certain places/trips -- we don't want to get 'stuck' with our bikes, and we feel a great weight of responsibility lifted when we manage to dump our bike somewhere safe, or just leave it at home. I also think most people want to behave socially/responsibly/etc. I also know many of us hate carrying around locks, we often forget them at home, we hate dropping the locks or having them fall off our bikes, we hate having to find a place to park, etc. All of this is part of why I think 30 and 45 and whatever other time limits are too short, and the overtime penalties far too large. I'd like to see a breakdown of just how much money is being generated by these overtime charges.

      Also, it's financially less viable to have longer free trips, basically because the operation would be much more expensive in terms of rebalancing stations and having more bikes available (plus reducing the uncertainty of where bikes will end up, where they are, plus the generation of a sort of "peak hours" of usage).

      I don't believe rebalancing would be substantially more expensive, but am open to being proven wrong. Uncertainty of where bikes will end up would seem to increase just because people would be able to reach more potential stations in the allotted time period. Reduced availability during peak usage times would be an issue, so yes, having some type of decongestion charge/fee is a good idea. 

      But it's a useful topic, what is the optimal distance/time of a trip in a public bicycle system? I tend to think 30 minutes is a good deal. For longer times, rent a bike or take your own.

      Imagine if most systems stayed at 30-minute limits -- what would the effect have been? Somebody decided to increase the limits for at least some riders -- I want to know why. Yes, in Montreal it seems to have been to placate the masses for the new advertising on the bikes, and possibly to account for an expanded coverage area -- was that it? Did NYC just agree to the 45-minute limits out of the gate because they knew there would be advertising? (I'm with Charles Dickens -- public transit shouldn't be about roving billboards.)

      In my opinion, the optimum system maximizes the utility of the system and builds a better world. For some, 'utility' means generating as many trips as possible. For others (me), utility is more nuanced -- it means allowing as many different types of folks to use the system as possible (young and old, singles and parents, etc.), including/especially the transit-dependent, for whatever reasons -- including/especially for 'longer' trips. Number of trips generated may, in fact, be the best/objective way to measure the utility of the system, but it's worth a discussion. For instance, does increasing the free time limit from 30 minutes to 45 change the number of trips taken in one direction or another? Does user satisfaction go up or down? Is the availability of bikes affected at all?

      I think using/renting/borrowing a bike from a bike share system is, in fact, 'renting a bike'. I understand we want to be able to talk about the different pricing models differently (short-time trip vs. long-trip time, presumably) -- I just wish there was a different/better way to do it.

      First, the general issue has to do with how people conduct trips.  Unless you are taking long distance trips, you don't spend "several hours" traveling.  And if you do, a bike isn't the way to do it...  Again, getting back to the 64% of trips are 5 miles or less, the 30 (to say 45 minute) time period is reasonable.

      A bike isn't the way to do it? Why not? I think people 'do it' for short periods and long periods and time lengths in-between -- if it's good for them, and good for society at large, why should we discourage them from doing it the way they want to do it? I can imagine a time when the entire country/world has bike share available to them, and all the systems are interchangeable/work together. In the nearer term, I can imagine the entire Bay Area (SF, Oakland, San Jose, and all points in between) having a common bike share system -- is there any reason we would want to discourage me from biking from SJ to SF, or vice-versa? DC is already building out reciprocal agreements with neighboring cities/towns/states. Reciprocity-type agreements are being worked out between other towns. What is the limit?

      If you want to maximize utilization, and the kind of Copenhagen-Amsterdam bike usage, the issue comes down to proximity, density, and tight links between residential location and activity centers, overlaid with transit.  

      Does density imply proximity? I just don't know if the term 'proximity' is a different meaning than 'density'.

      Assen (pop density: 2k/sq-mi) is 40% bike mode share. 
      Groningen (pop density: 6k/sq-mi) is 60% bike mode share. 
      Amsterdam (pop density: 9k/sq-mi) is 40% bike mode share.

      I think there are so many things that affect bike mode share, but if I had to pick two as the most important/influential, they'd be:
      1. Availability of appropriate bicycle infrastructure, and
      2. Availability of bike share.
      After that, I'd throw in gas prices/car fees, proximity, density, tight links, etc.

      Also, we know that really dense places don't even require/allow bike travel -- that is, too much density would seem to hurt bike mode share, because more people are just going to walk.

      I just don't understand the question, because except for longer distance commuting trips, and leisure travel, most trips are much shorter.  

      My guess is that the difference between average trip length times for '30-minute' users and '45-minute' users is substantial, and would remain substantial even when comparing '45-minute' users with '60-minute' users -- if true, this would indicate conclusively to me that the time limits are limiting demand for the bikes. I don't like the idea of limiting demand for the bikes. I think we should encourage people to bike for medium and long distances -- especially for medium and long distances, and we should encourage them to ride for leisure and exercise, too. It will be difficult to know if increased time limits make much or any difference until we get some data. 

      I don't know much about average commute times/distances, but this article has a lot of stats:

      Life for commuters can be heaven or hell. They report an average one-way commute time of 26 minutes (over an average distance of 16 miles). But the variance is huge: On the best days, the average commute is 19 minutes; on the worst days, 46 minutes. That means traffic, at its worst, can double the average commute time, adding 27 minutes each way.

      I ran across another situation the other day where someone was worried that they wouldn't be able to make a 1 mile bike trip in less than 30 minutes without hurrying. They didn't want to have to hurry, and I don't blame them. That's another downside to a 30-minute limit on bike shares. Maybe it's something we never think of/worry about, but the person I heard it from worried about it. If the penalty for being a few minutes late was less, people could relax a lot more. Why does it have to be $2 for the first extra half hour instead of 7 cents per minute late for the first half hour? Don't we have these things called computers? Instead of running that red light, now Sally can relax a bit, knowing that she'll only owe a quarter or so for being late. And maybe she can even stop off to visit granny. (Small charges can accumulate until some threshold, and then charges can be sent to the credit processing gateway -- just in case processing fees are an issue.)

      There are other pricing possibilities/rules I'll mention just because I read about them:
      • Subsidized memberships.
      • Grace periods -- say, that first 30 minute overage might be free. (This is case with Boston/Hubway's low income subsidy program.)
      • Bans -- if you act anti-socially, like keeping a bike for more than 24 hours, you can be banned/barred from using the system.

      As most bike trips are short, I think the point is to encourage people to not "occupy" the bike when they are not riding it. Without the time limit, people would tend to just lock it to something when they are in a store or at a cafe making it impossible for others to use it.

      This 'occupy' comment seems fair, too -- like stated way at top. However, I doubt the 'locking' thing would happen. I know I'm not going to carry around a bike lock while I bike-share around town unless getting or returning a bike is impossible, or some other strange circumstance. Maybe others would? Do any users currently go around locking their bike share bikes after 20 minutes, only to unlock a few minutes later and continue riding? Does this seem to hurt the availability of bikes? i.e. do you see a lot of bikes locked up during peak times or any other times?

      p.s. I'm guessing many bike share systems leave some or most docks at least partially empty, to accommodate arriving bikes? (Like a Shoup performance parking program?)

      p.p.s. What is the purpose of those 2-minute delays when you dock-hop? And, are you guaranteed to get a bike back once you return it -- say, if you're going on an extended trip (that is more than 30 minutes, or 45 minutes, or whatever your 'free' limit is)?

      p.p.p.s. Do the Dutch not do bike share so much because that would mean that countries relatively new to biking are teaching them how to do something bike-related? (Even though the Dutch White Bikes may have been first.) I know they do bike share (OV-fiets) (wiki), but it's not like you ever really hear/read about it. One wonders what the potential of bike sharing is in places like Amsterdam. The last published number I could find was 5,000+ total bikes (as of two years ago), spread throughout the country, mostly at railway stations (b/c it's operated by the Dutch Railways?). Only 230+ locations? And a pricing scheme that is even less optimal than ours? I think it's time to put the bike people in charge of OV-fiets.

      p.p.p.p.s. Having sturdy bikes seems fine to me, but having heavy/slow bikes just for the purpose of slowing bikes down or making them difficult to hold or maneuver or ride or bike uphill seems stupid or sadistic to me. Plus, a heavy bike can do more damage because you and the bike will have more momentum if/when you hit someone/something, you will move faster down hill - which brings other dangers, will require more energy/cost to move around/uphill, etc. To me, the ideal system is operationally supported by human power (that is, the bike rebalancing ops, etc.). If your explicit goal is to have heavy bikes 'just because', then you make human-powered bike-balancing operations difficult-to-impossible.  I can imagine super-strong, super-sturdy, super-lightweight bikes (bamboo?) that are stronger and safer and easier to ride, more pleasurable to ride, more sustainable to produce/return to the ecosystem, and more efficient to move and transport than the current generation of bike share bikes.

      Thanks.

      .peter

    • Richard Layman
      good questions, thank you.   I will throw out there that the 45 minute period for members in Montreal is a premium service so to speak for members.  Members
      Message 2 of 10 , May 17, 2012
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        good questions, thank you.
         
        I will throw out there that the 45 minute period for members in Montreal is a premium service so to speak for members.  Members get that longer period.  It is my understanding that this was done to placate people against the addition of sponsorship and sponsor id on bicycles and stations.  The introduction of sponsorship was responded to with significant opposition and a lot of graffiti on the the sponsor ids, at least on the bikes, I don't know about the stations (although I am at an architecture conference and one of the vendors of anti-graffiti coatings mentioned that the Bixi system uses their product on the stations and kiosks).
         
        The other systems have longer periods of time because they lack the recommended station density of 29 stations/sq. mile.  We were a bidder on the Chattanooga system, so I know that footprint.  The station density is nowhere near the recommended level.
         
         
        2.  WRT the rental competition issue, that is a political issue, but personally, while it does damage individual businesses, from an overall transportation planning and demand management standpoint, and managing visitor mobility within a community, I don't have a problem with bikeshare capturing part of this market.  The transportation planning goals and objectives are what matter foremost.  The issue is how much of that visitor riding can be captured in short trips, and how much is long trips.  i.e., recreational vs. transportational.  Transportation riding is probably best captured by bikeshare, and because of the comparative ubiquity of stations, is much more easily served by bikeshare than bike rental.  (E.g., I can think of 4 places to go and rent bikes, but there are more than 100 bike share stations.)
         
        Regardless, legally at this point anyway, bikeshare doesn't work for families with children, because only people aged 16+ are supposed to use the system.  It happens that in my blog this week I have two photos of children on the bike share bikes and one photo of a father transporting his young son in the package carrier of a bixi bike.  (http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com)  People are going to use the bikes the way they want to, not the way that we expect them to do, or tell them how they should do it.  (E.g., one entry links to a photo not by me of two people on a DC bikeshare bike.)
         
        I wonder if over time this restriction on age will drop to something like 12--at a certain point, the bike is too big for children.
         
        3.  $.  In DC, the casual/visitor user has been a significant source of the operational revenues generated by the system.  Arguably, it costs about $1800 to support the operations of a bike.  So you need 24 members @ $75/ea. per bike to support the annual operational costs.  DC doesn't have that level of membership.  So the system would run at an operational loss, without the addition of itinerant use.
         
        If you look at the very good dashboard for the DC system at http://cabidashboard.ddot.dc.gov/CaBiDashboard/#Home, you can see the breakdown on trips by time interval.
         
        4.  Note that in today's greatergreaterwashington.org blog there is a good entry on sort of "I told you so" wrt early opposition to bikeshare and bikeshare stations in DC.  It works well enough.  Stations don't damage the viewshed within neighborhoods.  It just isn't that big a deal, etc.
         
        More later.  Even though I still don't see why you care so much about long trips or long time duration.  I am an atypical bicyclist in that I willingly ride up to about 12 miles to get somewhere.  Most people don't do that--just the hardcore commuters.  (I work at home but bike to meetings and to conduct errands, and I used to bike to work when I worked in the city.)  In the city, most trips are five miles or less, and as discussed before, those trips take about 30 minutes.  But then I am a transportational cyclist.  I am the last person who's going to be going out for a 30 to 50 mile "fun" bike ride.
         
        Richard Layman

         
        From: Peter Smith <peter@...>
        To: WorldCityBike@yahoogroups.com
        Sent: Thursday, May 17, 2012 9:42 AM
        Subject: Re: [WorldCityBike] What is the purpose of those 30 or 45-min time limits on bike share?

         
        I can't promise there's a lot new/interesting here, but I read all responses at least 10 times, and thought about them a lot, did what other research I could, including asking other researchers/experts as I could find them.

        A few things stood out. I haven't quoted anyone, so I'll just re-word and re-use some answers to my queries. The bike time limits, I was told by one person, served at least three purposes:
        1. To encourage a bike is returned when no longer needed, so others may use it. I like this response a lot because it doesn't hide behind what i consider to be dubious-at-best ride or trip length statistics (average bike trip times can't be known with strict time limits in place, the same way democracy can't be known where an occupying army is in place [shoot, it's just about impossible even without an occupying army!]), and it doesn't ascribe evil to all of humanity (most people will keep the bikes even when not using them just because they are anti-social), while leaving room for human frailty/error -- people can be lazy, inconsiderate, and/or even antisocial, and it's ok to do some social engineering. It also suggests that a bike ride of longer than 30 or 45 minutes can even be useful and 'needed'. It also doesn't offer dubious-at-best assertions from certain, unnamed Boston-area bike share systems like, "We don't do bike rentals, we do transportation."  
        2. To not steal recreational business from a local bike rental shop. I have no idea if this is a real concern. The entire San Jose area does about 3 bike rentals per day, probably, across all of the city's bike shops. Most of those rentals are probably along one of our multi-use paths/trails. Regardless, it sounds reasonable. Bike rentals are big business in NYC, SF, DC, and just about every touristy town. For me, though, I think there's a way to protect local bike rental shops to a certain extent while still serving the greater good.  
        3. The usage fees are there to help pay for the service too. Ah -- this is the one I'm most curious about. Do all these fees actually add up to anything significant? I have no idea, but am more than a little curious to know.
        If 30 minutes travel time is ideal, then why are NYC, Montreal, and Ottawa doing 45 minutes for at least some members? Why are Miami Beach, Chattanooga, and Boulder doing 60 minutes? Why is Houston doing 90 minutes? If the reason is only or mostly that some cities are extra big or spread out or not dense or that the bikes are spread out or whatever, I'm open to that explanation -- it just doesn't feel like there's much rhyme or reason to why these particular time limits are being chosen.

        Why are we not doing decongestion pricing around peak times instead of just picking some arbitrary time limit to bring the bikes back by? If I check a bike out at 8:30 PM (off-peak time), why should i have to bring it back in just 30 minutes (while there are multitudes of bikes still available)? Is that the same as checking it out at 8:30 AM (during the morning rush, when few/no bikes will be available)? I figure there are 2-4 peak use times -- morning rush, lunchtime, evening rush, bar closing time (and who knows on weekends?) -- we should consider this for 4th generation systems/pricing schemes. If someone has a long trip to make, and they're not going to get charged a zillion dollars, they might just make that trip on bike on the weekend since they don't have to be back at work.

        And if a minuscule 10 cents/bag grocery store fee/tax is enough to significantly change behavior of food shoppers, why do the bike share fees have to be so high comparatively? Is human nature surrounding bag fees significantly different than human nature surrounding bike fees?

        Who decided that bike share systems should be primarily or only for short trips?

        Why did these people decide to pigeon-hole bike share systems to be primarily or only for short trips? Is it because they're an advertising firm or some other private entity that doesn't actually have the public interest at heart, but instead has a profit motive that trumps the public interest? If so, we need to recapture control of these systems? They're perfect for worker co-ops. I like Minneapolis' NiceRide -- they have some kind of 501(c3) org that owns/runs the bikeshare -- not a bankster nor an adster nor anyone else who has no business being in the business of bike-sharing.

        What is a short trip? Is it short if it is less than 15 minutes by car? Is a short trip by bus the same as a short trip by car the same as a short trip by bike? Is 5 miles a short trip? In San Jose, CA, I take short trips by car all the time. I can go 10 miles in about 11 minutes. That's definitely a short trip to me. That is, it's a short car trip. But it'd be a long bike trip. 

        The purpose is to maximize the use of the asset to accomplish many trips by multiple users, not to provide a bike to someone for $75-$95/year.

        There are lots of ways to talk about this issue, but this i think this gets to the heart of it very well. Well said!

        Some questions to ask:
        1. Is there any reason we should fight against the idea of providing a bike to someone for $75-$95/year? To make the hypothetical a bit more realistic, we'll stipulate that, in a city of 1 million people, we'd have a $10 Million city/taxpayer startup fund to buy bikes/infrastructure, there would be some type of fees associated with peak hours usage (to keep bikes available), that local bike rental shops would be effectively closed down/subsumed (we'd find a way to give them 10-year maintenance-type contracts to ease their transition or just buy them out), and we'd have enough money to operate and expand on a year-to-year basis (through government subsidies, membership rates, taxing pollution from motorized transport, etc.), and any fees collected would go to some innocuous cause (to make sure we're not just trying to generate revenue which would cause decreased biking).
        2. Should bike-sharing as we now effectively know it be that system (with the modifications we talked about)? 
        3. Why or why not?
        4. If not, can we create another, new PBS-type system that is suitable for long and medium-range trips only or additionally -- that would obviously need to be exempted from the stiff 'overtime' fines/penalties? Or do we just have to tell people to go out and buy their own private bikes and possibly establish their own bike sharing systems?
        If $75-$95/year would not get us a bike to share for the year, what would it cost to provide this service? $175-$195/yr? More? Less? Assume we had decongestion pricing applied.

        $200/yr would be worth it to me -- that's less than $20/mo. The rules? During peak hours, free rides are limited to 30 minutes, with somewhat steep per-minute charges after that. Outside peak hours, 3-hour time limits with very gradually increasing, per-minute charges after the 3-hour mark. 

        In theory, in the future I'd be able to spend that money in a pre-tax way like car parkers ($240/mo) and motorized transit users ($125/mo) can do. 

        To ride my local transit agency (VTA), it costs about $800/yr for a transit pass. Could we just officially make bike sharing a part of the local public transit pass? How many people you think would wait around for a bus to show up then?

        In the US, 51% of trips are 3 miles or less.  An additional 13% of trips are 3-5 miles.  Even on a heavy bike (public bikes are comparatively heavy), except in topographically challenged conditions, trips of these lengths can be made in 30 minutes.  That's 64% of all trips.

        These numbers seem dubious to me. In any case, I don't think bike share bikes should be an option for only 64% of trips. When we go from 30 minutes to 45 minutes, that's great -- a huge improvement -- now, what about going to 60 minutes?

        The point of short periods of use is to maximize the use of the bikes, which are expensive to operate in a hardened system (with docks, kiosks, etc.).  The cost of the bike/system runs about $5000+/bike.  The operational cost is about $2000/year, not including decent marketing and the costs to the municipality of oversight and management.

        I agree with the later statement that 'more research is needed'. A 'short period' is what? 30 minutes? 45? 60? 90? 

        Also, what should we be willing to pay for a bike system? Let's say it's $10,000/bike/year (estimate using capital + operating costs stated above). Is that more than a bus system? More than a train system? More than a car system?  My guess it that it's a fraction of the cost -- direct and indirect -- of all those. 

        The notion that bike share systems should have to pay for themselves (NYC) is not helpful.

        It's cheaper to give people bikes than it is to let them use the public bike sharing system for 4 hours at a time.

        That may be true, but I believe it's either irrelevant, or it would be unhelpful to do so. Access to bikes is not the main reason people don't ride -- it's a legitimate fear of cars. 

        After that, though, there are many factors that make biking difficult to impossible for more people -- no place to store your bike at home, difficulty getting it out of/into your home, difficulty maintaining the bike, no place to park the bike at your destination, fear of theft, etc. Bike share systems address all off these issues very well -- this is part of why these systems are so popular. Having a public bike share system may cost more than giving everyone a private bike to use, and that's fine -- it's worth a lot more. Stated another way, for most users, having access to a bike share bike is worth more in utility value than being given a private bike -- a lot more. 

        Anyway, I haven't seen good data on distance that people are willing to bike.  My sense is that most people will ride up to three miles. Since that can capture so many trips currently driven, that works for me.  Me, I am willing to ride 10-12 miles to get somewhere.

        I get that. 

        On the other hand, we've got multiple concurrent escalating/exacerbating/complicating emergencies -- some or all of them can be addressed effectively with bikes and bike-share -- I think shooting for 'just' the short trips is not good enough. Stretching John Pucher's "Making Cycling for Everyone" pitch potentially past its logical breaking point, I'd argue that to make cycling or bike share for everyone we need to target not just short trips but long trips and every type of trip in between as well. One can imagine that facilitating longer bike share trips, either based on distance or time, would serve short-distance/time travelers well, too, just as highways/freeways have done for car travel.

        Right now, I think it is not helpful that one would have to check-in multiple times during a longer commute. It makes going by bike share less attractive than it would otherwise be, and we should not accept that. 

        Thinking of it another way, we should be encouraging the taking of long trips by bike share because these trips would typically be done by bus/train/car. I think if a person rides more than 'x' miles in 'y' amount of time (either total or as-the-crow-flies), we should consider rewarding that user somehow. Right now, not only do we not reward these users, we actually penalize them. And maybe that's the way it has to be -- but I doubt it.

        Or maybe we need a certain amount of bikes at each station that are 'long haul' bikes that you can keep for extended periods of time (and maybe you pay for the privilege?), just like we need some that are cargo bikes, some that are smaller (for children or shorter people), bikes with child seats, etc. -- and maybe you pay for all those privileges, too? 

        This gets back to the time budget research, which says that people are most likely willing to spend about 30 minutes getting somewhere.

        I'd like to see this research. I know tens/hundreds(?) of thousands of Bay Area commuters regularly spend over 30 minutes getting somewhere -- walking, biking, driving, busing, training, etc. Shoot -- the shortest public transit trip in most of America is probably at least 30 minutes -- you have to walk to your stop, wait, get on the bus/train, and then walk to your destination. One of my typical transit trips is 4.1 miles. According to Google Maps, by car it takes me about 8 minutes -- by walk/bus/walk it takes me 32 minutes -- these seem about correct to me. The bus trip would only be this short, however, if I timed it perfectly, if the bus wasn't late (or too early -- happens a lot), etc. In another instance, it takes me 11 minutes to drive to a destination that would take me at least an hour to walk/train/walk to. Maybe that research differentiates between active transport like walking/biking, and motorized transport where it's somewhat difficult to multitask (driving), and where it's possible/easy to multi-task (bus, train, etc.)?

        Thinking about it logically, personally, I'll bike a zillion miles if there is appropriate infrastructure. Right now, I bike almost nowhere -- it's literally close to zero miles on a daily basis (I have a cool, old road bike that decorates my kitchen.). I'll occasionally make an exception for some crazy road trip, or some drinking festival or whatever else, but I basically don't bike. BUT, if you gave me a 1-mile cycletrack that went somewhere -- anywhere -- I'd probably ride it at least once a day just for the heck of it. Give me a 5-mile cycletrack that went somewhere -- anywhere -- I'd probably ride it at least once a day just for the heck of it. And I'd even consider using it for other tasks. Point is -- without appropriate infrastructure, we can't really know how far people will bike. Maybe we can look at places like The Netherlands and some places in Denmark to know? 

        Anyway, I don't see what the big deal is.  At least, providing that the bike system has density and breadth.  The real issue is sprawl.  Biking makes a lot of sense in dense places--cities.  It's a lot harder if you live in sprawl.  Even so, that 51% of trips number is national, and even in the suburbs, many trips can be captured by the bike, provided that there is adequate infrastructure and accommodation (high quality bike parking--secure and protected, etc.).

        I believe we are significantly limiting the role that bike share systems can have -- probably by at least 50% -- due to a less than optimal pricing/usage model. It's difficult to know, though, because there doesn't seem to be a lot of interest in actually finding out. I've tried to read through some of the research on 'rebalancing operations', which is at least somewhat related to 'bike share system utility' and number of trips, but I can't figure it out. Please feel free to enlighten me if anyone can. Little to none of it has looked at time limits specifically/directly -- that i can tell -- and my sense is that longer time limits would yield a greater demand for bikes at all times of day, and specifically/problematically at peak usage times. At off-peak times,  the impact of longer time limits on bike availability would be minor.

        I could understand if we suggested these short (or even shorter) time limits (with a max-single-user-per-time-period rule) during peak times -- in that case we'd explicitly be stating, "Hey -- during these peak periods we are reserving the bikes specifically for work/important/short activities/trips because we just don't have enough bikes to go around, and we want an equitable system so we want to give everyone a shot at riding a bike during the limited rush hour time window, so there will be no fun nor exercise nor non-utilitarian trips on these bikes during this time because it will likely be costing you to use the bikes during this time window, and you won't want to do that anyways." That makes sense to me. But an arbitrary time limit at all times of day? Not so much.

        So, my advice is to:
        1. Increase the supply of bikes,
        2. Increase the 'free' time limits,
        3. Decrease the penalty for bikes kept past the time limit, including charging per minute instead of per-half hour,
        4. Study effects of time limits and fees, decongestion pricing, etc., and adjust all accordingly until you achieve a reverse-Shoup-like balance of high utilization with at least one or two available bikes (in case you want to ride with a friend) in all racks at all times, 
        5. Repeat steps 1-4 as often as necessary until we've hit the natural limit of bike share usefulness.
        If we have to subsidize bike share systems more (or at all), then we should give it serious consideration, especially as it seems to compare favorably to the motorized forms of transport we subsidize so heavily.

        I think biking makes a lot of sense everywhere -- even though it may be a lot harder if you live in sprawl. We know not-densely-populated areas of The Netherlands are at 40%+ bicycle mode shares, so all suburbs/non-cities have to be made walk/bike-friendly, even if we do decide they should not, for whatever reason, have bike share.

        For to avoid accumulation of the bikes. Take into account the human nature.
        To avoid situations, when someone cycles to the park, keeps the bike next to the bench and is reading a book for whole afternoon.
        It will be anti-social behaviour, like using the lift in the office for to ride to the top floor, put the chair in its doors, to keep it, and going to the toilet "just for a minute". The bikes HAVE TO MOVE. And registration, when bike is rented and returned, allows to use more efficiently the re-location vehicles.

        I think the idea that people will keep bikes is incorrect. Most bikers love the ability to dump their bikes in a safe place -- it's one of the main reasons we do not currently bike certain places/trips -- we don't want to get 'stuck' with our bikes, and we feel a great weight of responsibility lifted when we manage to dump our bike somewhere safe, or just leave it at home. I also think most people want to behave socially/responsibly/etc. I also know many of us hate carrying around locks, we often forget them at home, we hate dropping the locks or having them fall off our bikes, we hate having to find a place to park, etc. All of this is part of why I think 30 and 45 and whatever other time limits are too short, and the overtime penalties far too large. I'd like to see a breakdown of just how much money is being generated by these overtime charges.

        Also, it's financially less viable to have longer free trips, basically because the operation would be much more expensive in terms of rebalancing stations and having more bikes available (plus reducing the uncertainty of where bikes will end up, where they are, plus the generation of a sort of "peak hours" of usage).

        I don't believe rebalancing would be substantially more expensive, but am open to being proven wrong. Uncertainty of where bikes will end up would seem to increase just because people would be able to reach more potential stations in the allotted time period. Reduced availability during peak usage times would be an issue, so yes, having some type of decongestion charge/fee is a good idea. 

        But it's a useful topic, what is the optimal distance/time of a trip in a public bicycle system? I tend to think 30 minutes is a good deal. For longer times, rent a bike or take your own.

        Imagine if most systems stayed at 30-minute limits -- what would the effect have been? Somebody decided to increase the limits for at least some riders -- I want to know why. Yes, in Montreal it seems to have been to placate the masses for the new advertising on the bikes, and possibly to account for an expanded coverage area -- was that it? Did NYC just agree to the 45-minute limits out of the gate because they knew there would be advertising? (I'm with Charles Dickens -- public transit shouldn't be about roving billboards.)

        In my opinion, the optimum system maximizes the utility of the system and builds a better world. For some, 'utility' means generating as many trips as possible. For others (me), utility is more nuanced -- it means allowing as many different types of folks to use the system as possible (young and old, singles and parents, etc.), including/especially the transit-dependent, for whatever reasons -- including/especially for 'longer' trips. Number of trips generated may, in fact, be the best/objective way to measure the utility of the system, but it's worth a discussion. For instance, does increasing the free time limit from 30 minutes to 45 change the number of trips taken in one direction or another? Does user satisfaction go up or down? Is the availability of bikes affected at all?

        I think using/renting/borrowing a bike from a bike share system is, in fact, 'renting a bike'. I understand we want to be able to talk about the different pricing models differently (short-time trip vs. long-trip time, presumably) -- I just wish there was a different/better way to do it.

        First, the general issue has to do with how people conduct trips.  Unless you are taking long distance trips, you don't spend "several hours" traveling.  And if you do, a bike isn't the way to do it...  Again, getting back to the 64% of trips are 5 miles or less, the 30 (to say 45 minute) time period is reasonable.

        A bike isn't the way to do it? Why not? I think people 'do it' for short periods and long periods and time lengths in-between -- if it's good for them, and good for society at large, why should we discourage them from doing it the way they want to do it? I can imagine a time when the entire country/world has bike share available to them, and all the systems are interchangeable/work together. In the nearer term, I can imagine the entire Bay Area (SF, Oakland, San Jose, and all points in between) having a common bike share system -- is there any reason we would want to discourage me from biking from SJ to SF, or vice-versa? DC is already building out reciprocal agreements with neighboring cities/towns/states. Reciprocity-type agreements are being worked out between other towns. What is the limit?

        If you want to maximize utilization, and the kind of Copenhagen-Amsterdam bike usage, the issue comes down to proximity, density, and tight links between residential location and activity centers, overlaid with transit.  

        Does density imply proximity? I just don't know if the term 'proximity' is a different meaning than 'density'.

        Assen (pop density: 2k/sq-mi) is 40% bike mode share. 
        Groningen (pop density: 6k/sq-mi) is 60% bike mode share. 
        Amsterdam (pop density: 9k/sq-mi) is 40% bike mode share.

        I think there are so many things that affect bike mode share, but if I had to pick two as the most important/influential, they'd be:
        1. Availability of appropriate bicycle infrastructure, and
        2. Availability of bike share.
        After that, I'd throw in gas prices/car fees, proximity, density, tight links, etc.

        Also, we know that really dense places don't even require/allow bike travel -- that is, too much density would seem to hurt bike mode share, because more people are just going to walk.

        I just don't understand the question, because except for longer distance commuting trips, and leisure travel, most trips are much shorter.  

        My guess is that the difference between average trip length times for '30-minute' users and '45-minute' users is substantial, and would remain substantial even when comparing '45-minute' users with '60-minute' users -- if true, this would indicate conclusively to me that the time limits are limiting demand for the bikes. I don't like the idea of limiting demand for the bikes. I think we should encourage people to bike for medium and long distances -- especially for medium and long distances, and we should encourage them to ride for leisure and exercise, too. It will be difficult to know if increased time limits make much or any difference until we get some data. 

        I don't know much about average commute times/distances, but this article has a lot of stats:

        Life for commuters can be heaven or hell. They report an average one-way commute time of 26 minutes (over an average distance of 16 miles). But the variance is huge: On the best days, the average commute is 19 minutes; on the worst days, 46 minutes. That means traffic, at its worst, can double the average commute time, adding 27 minutes each way.

        I ran across another situation the other day where someone was worried that they wouldn't be able to make a 1 mile bike trip in less than 30 minutes without hurrying. They didn't want to have to hurry, and I don't blame them. That's another downside to a 30-minute limit on bike shares. Maybe it's something we never think of/worry about, but the person I heard it from worried about it. If the penalty for being a few minutes late was less, people could relax a lot more. Why does it have to be $2 for the first extra half hour instead of 7 cents per minute late for the first half hour? Don't we have these things called computers? Instead of running that red light, now Sally can relax a bit, knowing that she'll only owe a quarter or so for being late. And maybe she can even stop off to visit granny. (Small charges can accumulate until some threshold, and then charges can be sent to the credit processing gateway -- just in case processing fees are an issue.)

        There are other pricing possibilities/rules I'll mention just because I read about them:
        • Subsidized memberships.
        • Grace periods -- say, that first 30 minute overage might be free. (This is case with Boston/Hubway's low income subsidy program.)
        • Bans -- if you act anti-socially, like keeping a bike for more than 24 hours, you can be banned/barred from using the system.

        As most bike trips are short, I think the point is to encourage people to not "occupy" the bike when they are not riding it. Without the time limit, people would tend to just lock it to something when they are in a store or at a cafe making it impossible for others to use it.

        This 'occupy' comment seems fair, too -- like stated way at top. However, I doubt the 'locking' thing would happen. I know I'm not going to carry around a bike lock while I bike-share around town unless getting or returning a bike is impossible, or some other strange circumstance. Maybe others would? Do any users currently go around locking their bike share bikes after 20 minutes, only to unlock a few minutes later and continue riding? Does this seem to hurt the availability of bikes? i.e. do you see a lot of bikes locked up during peak times or any other times?

        p.s. I'm guessing many bike share systems leave some or most docks at least partially empty, to accommodate arriving bikes? (Like a Shoup performance parking program?)

        p.p.s. What is the purpose of those 2-minute delays when you dock-hop? And, are you guaranteed to get a bike back once you return it -- say, if you're going on an extended trip (that is more than 30 minutes, or 45 minutes, or whatever your 'free' limit is)?

        p.p.p.s. Do the Dutch not do bike share so much because that would mean that countries relatively new to biking are teaching them how to do something bike-related? (Even though the Dutch White Bikes may have been first.) I know they do bike share (OV-fiets) (wiki), but it's not like you ever really hear/read about it. One wonders what the potential of bike sharing is in places like Amsterdam. The last published number I could find was 5,000+ total bikes (as of two years ago), spread throughout the country, mostly at railway stations (b/c it's operated by the Dutch Railways?). Only 230+ locations? And a pricing scheme that is even less optimal than ours? I think it's time to put the bike people in charge of OV-fiets.

        p.p.p.p.s. Having sturdy bikes seems fine to me, but having heavy/slow bikes just for the purpose of slowing bikes down or making them difficult to hold or maneuver or ride or bike uphill seems stupid or sadistic to me. Plus, a heavy bike can do more damage because you and the bike will have more momentum if/when you hit someone/something, you will move faster down hill - which brings other dangers, will require more energy/cost to move around/uphill, etc. To me, the ideal system is operationally supported by human power (that is, the bike rebalancing ops, etc.). If your explicit goal is to have heavy bikes 'just because', then you make human-powered bike-balancing operations difficult-to-impossible.  I can imagine super-strong, super-sturdy, super-lightweight bikes (bamboo?) that are stronger and safer and easier to ride, more pleasurable to ride, more sustainable to produce/return to the ecosystem, and more efficient to move and transport than the current generation of bike share bikes.

        Thanks.

        .peter



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