Councils have been urged to treat bike share as a key part of their sustainable transport offer and ensure it has sufficient funding for it to be developed to support all communities.

New guidance from national shared transport charity Collaborative Mobility UK (CoMoUK) calls for a partnership approach between operators and local authorities to address financial issues and encourage take up.

The review highlights how more than 40 operating or planned bike share schemes across the UK are attracting people back to cycling, delivering mental and physical health benefits, and helping the environment.

CoMoUK’s report, which offers practical guidance to local authorities on establishing schemes, found operators can in some areas face a funding gap of up to £300,000-a-year.

The average annual shortfall ranges between £200-300 per bike, depending on the size of a fleet.

Potential deployment costs range from £0.5million to £7.75 million, depending on fleet size and whether pedal bikes, electric bikes (e-bikes), or both are used.

CoMoUK found rider income alone is seldom enough to cover costs during the first or second year of a scheme with existing operators reporting shortfalls.
The report found gaps can be plugged through a flexible allocation of capital funding.
It also recommends councils explore using revenue raised from policies such as developer contributions, government funding pots and any clean air zones.
Sponsorship, corporate membership, and advertising can also help raise revenue.
CoMoUK said collaborative working was vital to ensure bike share is seen as a key part of public transport and the UK’s journey to net zero.
In areas of high demand – such as central and inner London boroughs – bike share may not need subsidy, but careful consideration of the economics of schemes are needed, with CoMoUK urging councils not to place unrealistically high financial burdens on schemes.

Key recommendations include:

A senior council staff member should act as a ‘sponsor’ to ensure bike share is included in transport strategy, funding proposals, built environment development and cycle infrastructure plans, outreach and communications work.
As far as possible, car parking spaces should be used for bike bays or docks to minimise obstructions for pedestrians.
An active partnership approach with police and councils is needed to address vandalism to avoid financial difficulties and keep costs low.
Contract length should where possible be linked to the lifespan of the bikes at which point it may be necessary to seek further funding to replace the fleet.

Richard Dilks, chief executive of CoMoUK, said:
“Bike share is now a significant part of the transport mix in towns and cities across the UK, with clear social and environmental benefits for all.
“They support health and wellbeing, trigger sustainable travel behaviours, cut car miles and work alongside bike ownership.
“It is encouraging that bike share is increasingly becoming a valuable component of a wider sustainable transport network.
“Our updated guidance provides local authorities with a framework for creating strong schemes with partnerships at their core.
“Ultimately, if we are to achieve our ambitious net zero targets, we need to address the issue of private car ownership, which massively contributes to the UK’s emissions.
“Shared transport such as bike share schemes, along with car clubs, demand responsive transport and e-scooters, are the key to achieving our goals.”