What Bike Share Costs -- A Comparison

Wednesday, May 09, 2012 - 08:40 PM


CORRECTED POST There's been not a little controversy about the cost of New York's bike share since the program was unveiled this week -- much huffing and puffing about how an afternoon's ride would cost you a C-note. The city Department of Transportation notes that bike share is not intended for four-hour rides, any more than a taxi ride should last four hours. If you need a car for four hours, you can rent one. If you need a bike for four hours, you can rent one too -- just not a bike share.

Also responding to the critics: Matt Seaton takes a comparative look in the Guardian Wednesday.

Their point is: this is transportation, not recreation.

But still, New York's rates are among the highest in the world , as far we can tell. The annual fee is $95 -- a bit above most other annual rates, which range from $70 to $80.

The usage fees for annual members, in the chart above, are also high, although NYC annual members get 45 minutes of free riding, unlike riders in Washington, DC, London, Boston, Chicago, Denver, and Minneapolis, who only get 30 minutes of free riding.

And the usage fees for daily members are the highest of all - $4 for the first hour, $13 for the first 90 minutes, compared to a $2.00 and $6.00 fee for most other cities.



Here's a look other annual fees (& daily membership fees) around the world:
New York: $95 ($9.95)
Boston $85 ($5) CLOSES IN WINTER
Denver $80 ($8) CLOSES IN WINTER
Montreal $80 ($7) CLOSES IN WINTER
Washington, DC $75 ($7) -- there's also an $84 annual fee that can be paid out monthly.
London $72 ($1.60)
Minneapolis $65 ($6) CLOSES IN WINTER
Paris $50 ($2.20) -- this level of annual gives you 45 minutes free riding
Mexico City $23 (daily rate N.A.)

The New York bike share annual membership is still cheaper than a monthly MetroCard, as the NYC DOT likes to point out. And with it, you can ride anywhere, anytime, as many rides as you want -- for free, so long as those rides don't exceed 45 minutes. That grace period exceeds the grace period in most other cities. With the exception of Paris, Montreal and Mexico City, charges in all the above cities start at minute 31. (In Paris you can chose between a deluxe membership, which costs about $50, or a regular which costs about $36, and gives you just 30 minute free riding)

NY officials say 97 percent of rides in DC are under the 30 minute free ride there. But if you keep the bike past the grace period, the charges escalate rapidly. The $2.50 cost for the initial usage fee in New York is the highest we could find.

As for next increment: it's $9.00.

NYC DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow says that's still misleading -- because in New York, you can ride for an hour an a quarter for $2.50, and for an hour and three quarters for $9.00.

"These rates are not so easy to compare to each other," Solomonow said. "Some trips are cheaper or more expensive, depending on the specific city, type of membership and length of trip. Some rides are cheaper or more expensive depending on whether they lasted 59:59 or 60:00."

Many, many of you have commented below about whether New York's bike share should ever be used for 90 minutes (mostly, you say no.)

For most one-way rides that people will make after the initial roll-out in Manhattan below 59th Street and parts of Brooklyn and Long Island City,  it shouldn't be a problem to stay under 45 minutes for a one-way trip. You should be able to get most places around that district in under 45 minutes.

New York's transportation commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan says the pricing arrangement is a necessary way to keep trips short and bikes in circulation. Here's how she explained it in an email:

"The system is the first unsubsidized bike share system and it is designed to incentivize people to return bikes promptly so there will always a be a bike available for any user who wants one. There is no other system of this size and structure that compares, and instead of costing tens of millions of dollars to implement as budgets are being cut, the system will actually provide a new transportation option and revenue for the city."

"As we have seen in other cities, users primarily use the bike share bikes no longer than the free period. The system works when people return their bikes promptly and incur no additional charges at all. It breaks down if users go looking for a bike but find only empty docking stations because all the bikes are checked out on long rides."

However, when the system expands to Park Slope, Crown Heights,  and the Upper West Side, one can easily imagine a one-way commute of an hour and a quarter. Alta officials have said one-way commutes are frequent in Washington, DC. When it's raining in the morning but nice in the afternoon, a user might want to ride home from, say, Lincoln Center to Crown Heights.

No word yet on whether the system's pricing could be adjusted -- though in Washington, officials have created low-income payment plans and other discount schemes.
[CORRECTED POST: Our initial post inadvertently compared New York's usage rates for daily and short-term members to the usage rates for annual members in other cities. The chart above has the correct rates. We regret the error.]


Comments [8]


As a former Clinton hill to Houston street bike commuter... (+/- 30 minutes) the rate is not grossly expensive for long term members (if you think so, you should price a good bike...)

....HOWEVER(!) if you're a visitor to the city Daily rate is so high it encourages Taxi use when traveling with another.
The only practical use I can see would be traveling ALONE cross town in midtown.

And the Bklyn bridge bike path (and others) will soon become impractical.

I'd think getting visitors to SEE the city would be nice... but this scheme is to pricey for the (dare I say) 99%, sorry.

May. 14 2012 09:26 AM

Just so you know, the rates in Paris have gone up recently.
It's 1.70 €, that's 1,32$ for the daily membership, the first 30 minutes being "free".

May. 14 2012 04:48 AM

I live around 100 miles from London. When my wife and I stayed there recently for a long weekend we used the bike share scheme all the time. It's a lot cheaper that the proposed NY scheme (only £1/day which is around $1.60) and free for first 30 mins. Bit hairy going around the busier areas, but very liberating compared to the underground.

May. 12 2012 05:07 AM
gabriela sonam

Until the NYPD begins enforcing traffic laws and ticketing/prosecuting both drivers AND pedestrians who recklessly violate the bike lanes, this bike share is actually only gong to lead to increased hazards for serious cyclist commuters. The lanes we currently have are overcrowded, and inadequately maintained, pot holes are a serious hazard; rude/dazed/entitled/drunk pedestrians wander/dash out into them at will, even when they see me coming; food delivery guys on motorized "bikes" routinely ride the wrong direction in one way lanes REFUSING to yield, cars (including NYPD) use bike lanes for double parking and for passing or turning lanes.

The city needs to solve these problems before they add thousands more novice cyclists to this crazy mix of hazards.

May. 12 2012 04:46 AM

Ride-dock. Ride-dock. Ride-dock. Etc.

May. 10 2012 05:37 PM
Andrea Bernstein

We used the one hour increment because it's the most common, both for day and annual membership structures. But if you'd like to make a chart, please do! If it's clear and accurate, we'll post it!

May. 10 2012 05:33 PM
Lars Brekken

The one hour duration for the first graph seems arbitrary. How about adding a graph that shows how much the first 45 minutes cost with an annual membership for the different cities?

May. 10 2012 05:25 PM

It must be bikeshare week. Here is another post comparing costs in various cities, with some not mentioned in this article:

NYC is really not all that bad, since the only things that matter for most riders are the annual fee and the free time period, and while New York is on the expensive end it is year round and 45 minutes. Plus, the scale is ten times bigger than equivalently-priced Toronto, and in bikeshare scale is everything - being able to find a rack at your destination, and a bike sitting there when you leave.

Anyone reporting Citibike as "expensive" is out to lunch.

May. 10 2012 04:34 PM

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