Shift Up Podcast: Is dockless bike share the success many claim?

Pulling on the knowledge of Andy Boenau an expert on sustainable transport and dockless deployment, this week’s Shift Up Podcast is now live at the head of the homepage.

Returning to the podcast, Boenau begins by talking about the inevitable progression from docked to dockless thanks to a combination of advancing technology and the desire to remove redundant street furniture. The latter point, explains Boenau, is where the mainstream media has picked up the story, publishing what he describes as a series of ‘clickbait’ style articles sensationalising the negatives of the bike share explosion.

The discussion quickly proceeds on to curiosity on the longevity of each scheme’s financial backing. “How long can this go on?”, asks our host Arleigh Greenwald in reference to the eye-watering sums of money involved in many schemes.

“There are two very different models; venture capital funded and the for-profit based model. The former is money, often hundreds of millions, pumped into inexpensive bikes and flooded into the market. Venture capital backed schemes tend to know their bikes will need to be replaced in 30 days,” starts Boenau.

“You’ve got a non-sustainable business model there, more a flood the market model. Disruption is a big part of it. These companies see the opportunity to get people riding a bike instead of being in a car by themselves and that’s the goal. Most of these companies operate on the basis of needing four rides per day, per bike just to break even. It’s not yet intended to be a profitable model, but it could be.”

Moving on to data’s role in the big picture, Boenau says it’s becoming easier to judge the success of each model, as well as deliver urban planners a wealth of information to vastly improve the local mobility picture, something that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of more ridership.

“If you’re a city planner you can look at heat maps and figure out why people are making decisions that they’re making and then you can go out and fix streets. You can also track carbon emissions, all kinds of city planner stats to measure benefits. One example, Oklahoma University, passed their first anniversary of a 75-bike strong fleet’s installation recently. With this as a starting point they reduced their carbon emissions by 70,000 pounds. This helps cities to achieve sustainability metrics.”

Tune in to the full discussion below, or catch the discussion on the #betterbikeindustry hashtag on social media.