Transportation Deployment Casebook/2018/Dockless Bike Sharing

Qualitative AnalysisEdit

An Introduction to Dockless Bike SharingEdit

A Description of Dockless Bike SharingEdit

Recent concerns about climate change, congestion and worldwide motorisation has led to an emergence of sustainable transport alternatives like stationless bike sharing. Stationless bike sharing involves the sharing of bicycles within a city without the need for returning the bike to a specified station. A user simply locates the bike with their mobile and uses it to get to wherever they want. Though it is commonly thought that it has only recently emerged, bike sharing has been present since 1965 and has grown quickly ever since. [1]

It has frequently been suggested that this mode has solved or partially solved the last mile problem, though its emergence has caused problems such as bike littering and vandalism. Stationless bike sharing presents economic and environmental benefits because it aims to substitute cars, meaning there are less cars on the road (less congestion) and less greenhouse emissions as a result. This transportation experience has only appeared in Sydney in 2017, where companies such as Reddy Go, oBike, Mobike and Ofo have provided this service. [2]

Technological CharacteristicsEdit

Technology has ultimately led bike sharing to what it is today. Prior advancements in both software and hardware were critical to its development, as bike sharing is considered an innovation rather than an invention. These characteristics can be summarised as follows:

Technological Characteristics
Characteristic Application Significance
GPS technology Locates shared bicycles People can find bikes with ease. Company can track usage and behaviour. Abandoned bikes can be recovered
Mass steel manufacturing Used for bike frame Modern techniques allow cost. effective means of production . Allow bikes to be lightweight and strong. Large amounts of bikes can be built
Smart Phone Used for accompanying app Facilitates the use of GPS technology. Payment is quick and easy. Allows visualisation of location


Advantages of bike sharing extend to the economy, the environment, the general public and governments. Bike sharing provides flexibility not seen in any other transport system. It allows users to virtually travel anywhere they want with minimal restrictions unlike cars which are restricted to the road and trains to rail. The use of bikes has led to a decreased use of cars, especially in China and other countries with large populations. it has been found that 1.4 million metric tons of fuel was saved in Beijing in 2017 as a result of bike sharing, representing 1.1% of the total. [3]

This is especially significant as China is the worst polluter of greenhouse gases in the world, and so any reduction in its greenhouse footprint benefits the health of its residents and the global environment. [4] This reduction in greenhouse gases, as well as the excercise which users are now doing means that there is reduced expenditure on healthcase as it encourages public health. Inactivity is reported to pose a significant cost to developed countries and so its reduction is beneficial to the economy. [5]

Craig Bullock, Finbarr Brereton, and Sive Bailey. “The economic contribution of public bike-share to the sustainability and efficient functioning of cities.” Sustainable Cities and Societies. Vol. 28, January 2017, pages 76–87.[6]

Main MarketsEdit

Bike sharing is widespread throughout the world, its main market is concentrated in asia and is the fastest growing, especially in China, South Korea and Taiwan. This is despite Europe experiencing the earliest examples of bike sharing, which paved the way for subsequent innovations for that mode. [7] The fact that almost anybody can ride a bike means that this system is available to everyone and its cost effectiveness means that it is scalable to the masses, This can be seen by the example of china, where of the 10 million bikes that are shared globally, 7 million of those are in china. In 2015, there were only 1.5 million shared bikes, demonstrating that this transport system has boomed quite rapidly compared to other systems.[8]

Before Dockless Bike SharingEdit

Cities typically have high concentrations of economic activity, requiring effective transportation needs to support them. Accordingly, larger cities are more complex and thus are more dependent on a transport system’s efficiency to move labour, consumers and freight. However, issues such as congestion may arise from this complexity. [9] Like any transport, the beginning of bike sharing is hard to define as it has evolved over many years. Until recently, bike sharing has been restricted to docks rather than a dockless system, meaning it did not have the versatility it has now.[10] As such, it was not a widespread transportation mode, but rather a means of recreation. Hence, there was no widespread “last mile” solution, meaning that people would just walk to their destinations from the bus stop or train station or would otherwise just drive. It is important to see how these modes paved the way for dockless bikesharing as it shows the need for this transport system.


The world has substantially changed in the last two decades in terms of transport activity and economics, especially in car transport. Car ownership has increased every decade since its introduction to transport, transforming the urban form of Australia's cities. As such, investments in infrastructure have focused on this change by focusing on upgrading roads, highways and bridges. Recently however, younger generations are opting to use cars less due to increased consumption, slow wage growth, increasing fuel prices and increased road congestion. [11] Furthermore, people in the current century are more conscious of greenhouse gas emissions, of which car transport is one of the largest contributor. [12] The fact that bikesharing is able to combat these issues makes it a more attractive option as it is more economical to operate and does not require maintenance as they are not privately owned by the users.

Public TransportEdit

Public transport is a system whereby passengers travel in groups using a transport mode, typically managed through a schedule and operating on predetermined routes. Examples include buses, trams, trains and ferries, all of which predate bikesharing by many decades or centuries. ** However, the fact that these systems are fixed on established routes means that there is little flexibility in terms of destination, meaning there is an inherent “last mile problem” with public transport. People would either need to walk (time consuming), take a taxi (expensive) or use a personal bike (inconvenient). The problems with walking is that this creates congestion and takes too long to reach the final destination. Moreover, the use of taxis as a solution to the “last mile problem” is expensive and unscalable, meaning that only a few are entitled to this. FInally, though using a personal bike or scooter is an excellent way to traverse the “last mile,” this is not feasible because they require users to take these bikes onto the transport systems meaning there is less room for more people. [13] Hence, this presents an opportunity for bike sharing as they do not need to be carried around: they can be found virtually anywhere, especially near public transport hubs.

Docked bike sharingEdit

Despite dockless bike sharing only recently emerging, bike share programs were previously prevalent using docking stations. A docking station allowed people to walk up to it and use it without requiring registration. This system was the precursor to the current generation of bike sharing, paving the way to the current way that bike sharing is done. [14] However, the biggest issue with dicked bike sharing is that although there are multiple docks intended to be situated around a city, they are still limited in terms of flexibility because they need to be returned to a dock. Thus, this was not a viabilie[15]

Inventing and developing dockless bike sharingEdit

Previous TechnologyEdit

Throughout the last 45 years of development, bike sharing has experienced a number of innovations which has contributed to its current state. It is expected that bikesharing will continue its innovation into the future to ensure efficiency despite enforced policy. Innovation has taken place in both physical and software technology, and the combination of these advancements has proven to build an effective system. . Bike sharing companies have used internet of things technologies and GPS modulars in shared bikes to launch the first stationless bike systems. More information about previous technology can be found in table xXXXX. [16]

Improving Technology Using ExperienceEdit

Mobike, a leading Chinese Bike sharing company, developed a bike that requires no maintenance within four years of operation by improving the quality of tires and chains. This innovation is important because dockless bikes are used more than personal bikes, meaning that maintenance would be required more often assuming pre existing technology is used. This innovation allows these bikes to be more reliable and require less spending for maintenance. Also, the low resistance solid tyre reduces resistance by 27%, meaning that it is easier for the users to ride and lasts longer. [17] These were by no means inventions, because bike tyres and chains were available far before the inception of bike sharing systems. However, since there is a new context, innovations were needed to be made to accomodate the usage and the environment which was not factored in previous products. Furthermore, these companies have used their experience in bike manufacturing and feedback from users to produce ergonomic designs and new composite materials. This is to ensure mass production while ensuring quality and lack of maintenance.

Policy and GrowthEdit

The following discussion will focus on policy and its effect on growth in Australia. Australia has one of the strictest rules concerning bicycles, and NSW in particular. [18] Rules concerning cycling include those concerning helmets and night lights. These policies are important as they affect the development of dockless bike sharing in Australia.

BIke HelmetsEdit

In Australia, all bicycle riders must wear an approved helmet which must be securely fitted. This has been a law far before the inception of bike sharing systems. Policies in this regard did not change as a result of the new transport innovation, meaning that companies needed to work with these rules and come up with ways to work with them. This is different to other Asian countries where bike sharing is most prevalent, meaning that they have to deal with less policy restrictions. As such, bike sharing companies must comply with this law and provide a helmet for each of their bike. However, since the helmet is detached from the bike, it is very easily lost meaning that share bike users are breaking the law, risking a $325 fine. [19] There are current innovations occuring to avoid this situation, indluding Obike’s bluetooth system which leads to the helmet.

Night LightsEdit

At night, cyclists are much less visible than other vehicles, meaning there is a high risk of accidents. Hence, bicycle riders must have a flashing or steady white light at the front and a red reflector at the back. Just like the bike helmet issue, this is not seen in countries such as China and is very strictly enforced in Australia.[20] This policy has not been changed for the new bike sharing companies, and was integrated into their products accordingly. [21]

Bike sharing has rapidly evolved in the last few years and may be in the mature growth phase at the moment. A number of consequences arise in the mature growth phase such as changing markets, competition and changing attitudes. These will be discussed below.


There exists at least four bike sharing companies in sydney, including mobike, obike, reddygo and ofo. The fact that there is multiple competitors means that rates are competitive and also the service is improved to satisfy users. [22]

Reinventing Bike SharingEdit

Due to its rapid development, regulating dockless ridesharing has been difficult as there had not been enough time to establish necessary rules. However recently, councils in sydney have formed alliances to set guidelines to address the problems which arise from haphazard placement of share bikes in parks and streets. Such rules need to be established to protect pedestrians and ensure the future success of the mode. These policies require:

  • Moving bikes in dangerous locations within 3 hours
  • Provide repair service
  • Unlock bikes for council
  • Educate users about parking
  • Install bells
  • Have public liability insurance
  • Offer incentives to relocate bikes


Quantitative AnalysisEdit

This section will compare the prediction of how many share bikes there are in the world with the predicted amount according to the below equation. This data will be used to estimate the periods of birthing, growth and maturity phases. The dataset was obtained from R Meddin's Bike sharing blog.

The S-CurveEdit

The predicted S curve will be based on the equation:

S(t) = K/[1+exp(-b(t-t0)] ... where:

S(t) is the status measure (number of bikes), t is time (years), t0 is the inflection time, K is saturation status level and b is a coefficient.

Note: Since the K and b values are unknown (bike sharing is not in its maturity phase), it had to be deduced using multiple iterations. The end result saw that K = 2020000 and b = 0.9815770869. The resultant data can be seen in table 2 below.

Table 2: Table of Values for S-curveEdit

Change in the number of shared bikes in Sydney
Year Real number Predicted number
2002 5000 14
2003 10000 38
2004 15000 103
2005 18000 274
2006 20000 731
2007 55000 1914
2008 130000 5194
2009 225000 13801
2010 320000 36415
2011 375000 94341
2012 400000 233562
2013 700000 522490
2014 946000 973970
2015 1440343 1440343

Figure of S-CurveEdit

S Curve


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