More than a decade ago, when I was running a nonprofit focused on green transportation options and sustainable development, modern bikesharing was just popping onto the scene. It was a kind of revolution in the bicycle planning and bicycle commuting world, and it was built around modern, smart, fairly high-volume docking stations where people could pick up a bike or return a bike.
In more recent years, a dockless bikesharing trend has emerged. The added flexibility of being able to leave a bike anywhere appealed to many people. Just find a bike somewhere on the street near your starting point and leave it at your destination. Easy!
There are issues with both systems, though. With the stations with docks, bikes would often end up emptied from high-density residential areas in the morning, with not enough places to dock at high-density workplaces as well in the morning, and then the reverse trend in the late afternoon. With dockless stations, too many bikes could be left well off the beaten track, they could “clutter up” sidewalks in some areas, and it can just be a bit less predictable where you can find a bike if the region isn’t heavily saturated in them (which costs money). One more matter with the docking stations: they typically required large, fairly expensive kiosks.
BCycle, which has been a leader in the bikesharing arena for more than a decade (and I wrote about here on CleanTechnica at least as far back as 2013), has a helpful new bikesharing station design that takes some of those challenges to heart. The new “3.0 docking stations” are beginning to roll out in California (Santa Barbara), Florida (Broward County), and Wisconsin (Madison). They are something like a middle ground between earlier capex-heavy docking stations and completely detached dockless programs.
“BCycle has launched a new generation of dock-based bike share with the 3.0 docks,” the company writes. “The 3.0 docks combine the flexibility and streamlined infrastructure that cities and riders want with the order and predictability that have made BCycle’s bike share programs successful for more than a decade. Unique to the bike share industry, this technology allows programs to grow more quickly and at a lower cost by eliminating the need for a kiosk. Its modular design also allows for smaller stations in more locations.”
The focus on flexibility is repeated throughout the press release about the news. The message is clear: you can have some of the flexibility of a dockless system with a bit more of the order and reliability that comes with docks. Notably, part of that flexibility comes from something noted in the quote above — that these are modular stations, sort of like LEGO pieces. You could put two in one spot, or 30.
Additionally, the smaller size and greater flexibility mean that these can be spread out more diversely (almost mimicking a dockless system), and the system operator can more easily (i.e., cheaply) roll out more docking stations to specific areas as it’s determined they are needed there — as it becomes more clear where riders want to pick up and drop off bikes.
“Our goal at BCycle is to get more people on bikes,” says Morgan Ramaker, Executive Director of BCycle, LLC. “To do that, we need to make it easy for bike share programs to grow quickly and flexibly, whether that’s expanding into new neighborhoods, or creating greater density in downtown areas. We have developed a best-of-both-worlds solution that offers the flexibility that bike share riders expect, without sacrificing the reliability that we know docks provide.”
“BCycle’s new docks open so many doors for us,” says Helen Bradley, General Manager of Madison BCycle. “With lower costs and more flexibility, we can put docks in places we couldn’t previously — areas where space was limited, and a traditional kiosk wouldn’t fit — but where our riders want to be.”
Here are a few more selling points and reminders of key highlights about the stations:
- Modular, kiosk-less, easy-to-install design for countless station configuration options
- Durable aluminum construction
- Power savings through new technology
- Theft deterrents
- Easy rider access via mobile app or RFID card
They look great too.
Overall, these BCycle 3.0 docking stations look like winners. I look forward to seeing some pop up in my area of the world.