City of Aurora pioneers first dockless bike sharing program in Colorado

 Aurora Bike Share Program. Photo by the City of Aurora Communications Department.

Aurora Bike Share Program. Photo by the City of Aurora Communications Department.

by Brenden Paradies, Aurora, Colorado

Bicycle sharing is an innovative form of transportation that is quickly gaining traction in the United States as a multi-modal transportation option and a key component to the sharing economy.  With more than 1 million bike-share bicycles around the world, local municipalities are looking for ways to provide bike-sharing systems within their jurisdiction.

Bike sharing allows users the ability to check out a bicycle for temporary use within a system's service network. Most bike-sharing networks have fixed docking stations or permanently installed bike racks where bikes must be checked out and returned. The new dockless concept eliminates costly docking stations, creating a broadly distributed and more affordable system of bike sharing. The bicycles can be remotely accessed via a smartphone application or other credentials.

 How it works on a smartphone.

How it works on a smartphone.

Without a bike-sharing system already in place, the city of Aurora set out to create a Bike Share Permit Program that would reduce travel time and congestion, provide multi-modal mobility to a wide range of users, and increase transportation access and options in Aurora. Realizing the potential that bike sharing can provide for short-distance, point-to-point trips, including last-mile connections to public transit, the city of Aurora launched the first dockless bike-sharing permit program in Colorado in early October 2017.

Aurora’s program requires bicycle-sharing operators to provide easy access to bicycle stations or bicycles for the broadest group of people—including solutions for those individuals who do not bank or have smartphone resources—and making the system affordable to this same broad population.

 Lime Bike Launch. Photo by the City of Aurora Communications Department.

Lime Bike Launch. Photo by the City of Aurora Communications Department.

In creating the permit program, a team of Planning and Public Works staff at the city of Aurora established a framework with rules and regulations governing the operators with the responsibility of safety, parking, operations, service area coverage and data reporting.

Staff identified specific service areas where bike-share services would be especially beneficial, in key parts of Aurora that have a higher population density and access to other modes of transportation, including northwest Aurora and light rail stations that provide service through the heart of the city. Instead of exclusively contracting with one bike-share provider, the city of Aurora opted to welcome any bike-share operator to apply for a permit in order to both increase the number of mobility options for those who live, work and play in Aurora and ensure the type of service excellence that would come with multiple providers.  

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Within days of launching the program, the city of Aurora issued permits to three private bike-share operators, Limebike, Ofo, and Spin, to operate within the city limits with a minimum of 250 bikes each at initial deployment. In the program’s first month of service, there has been 3,000+ total number of trips and 2,000 total miles traveled cumulatively across all three private bike-share operators.  Each dockless bike-share operator is privately funded and is not subsidized financially by the city in any way, making it particularly advantageous and cost-effective transportation enhancement for Aurora and its residents. 

For any municipality or campus considering launching a dockless bike-share program, it is important to first understand and identify the goals, objectives and desired outcomes motivating the desire to implement a bike-share program. Deployment, education and outreach, program awareness, community partnerships, logistics and regulations of a bike-share program are all key components that must be carefully considered when establishing a dockless bike-share program in order to help create a more positive rider experience and sustainable bicycle-sharing service.

Bicycling Survey and Ridership Analysis:

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In an effort to better understand bicycling behaviors in the City of Aurora, staff issued a bicycle survey that asked a variety of questions related to cycling habits, including bike-share usage. The survey was available for individuals to take on the City’s website, via social media platforms, including a popular online community portal known as Nextdoor. A total of 604 responses were collected within 3 days of the survey being live. After gathering and analyzing the data, it is evident that while 37 percent of respondents ride a bike at least once a week and 22 percent at least once a month, only 20 percent of respondents have ever ridden a bike-share bicycle. In contrast, 86 percent of respondents own a bicycle either personally or in their household and 76 percent of respondents are familiar with the concept of bike-sharing. Because of this contrast in heavy personal bicycle usage compared to the low usage of bike-share bicycles, this can inform city staff about bicycling habits in Aurora.

It was important to understand then why individuals may not be using bike-share at a higher percentage, so we asked the question, “What would motivate you to try bike-share,” and after summarizing 500 open-ended responses, key themes emerged of wanting to have more education and understanding of how to use bike-share, making bike-share more fiscally and economically accessible, and having more supportive bicycle infrastructure with protected bike lanes, better trail connections, and dedicated bike signaling at intersections.  Suggestions were also offered about better distributing and rebalancing bike-share bikes more evenly throughout the City of Aurora to increase accessibility. Another suggestion that was given was to introduce the option of having as Aurora bike trail map access via a Smartphone App.

Gathering community feedback via surveys, public forums, or community meetings, is important for any municipality exploring the idea of implementing a bike-share program or improving bicycling usage for residents because it can help to provide key information about motivating factors for bicycling and offer suggestions on things that could be improved to better encourage bicycling as a form of multi-modal or recreational transit.


Ridership Statistics:

Who are the Bike-Share Providers operating in Aurora?

  • LimeBike (Date Permitted Received: October 6 )
  • Ofo (Date Permitted Received: October 17 )
  • Spin (Date Permitted Received: October 26 )
  • Number of Bikes: 250 bikes per provider minimum for roll-out

Ridership: ( Data represented from October 9-October 31 )

  • Cumulative total number of trips: 3,700+ trips
  • Cumulative total miles traveled: 2,000+ miles
  • Membership: 2,000+ members between all permitted operators

Ridership: ( Data represented from November 1-November 30 )

  • Cumulative total number of trips: 4,000+ trips
  • Cumulative total miles traveled: 2,600+ miles
  • Membership: 2,700+ members between all permitted operators
  • Users: On average, 60-65% of users are new on a daily basis for each operator

Trip Summary:

  • Average riding distance: 1.0-1.5 miles per trip
  • Average riding time: 8-10 minutes per trip
  • Color indicates where bikes are picked up.  Red indicates where most activity has taken place
  • Popular Destinations: Aurora Central High School, Del Mar Park, MLK Library, Aurora Metro Center Station

For more on the Bike Sharing Permit Program, visit ParkAurora.com or contact Brenden Paradies at 303.739.7266 or bparadie@auroragov.org.
 


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Brenden Paradies is an Urban Planner with the City of Aurora, Colorado who started with the City in June 2016. He is a recent graduate from the Master’s of Urban Planning and Policy Program at University of Illinois-Chicago with concentrations in Transportation Planning and Community Development. In May 2014, Brenden graduated from Roosevelt University with a Bachelor’s of Arts in Integrated Marketing Communications and Minor in Women’s and Gender Studies. Brenden is one of the key player’s for creating, integrating, and managing the City of Aurora’s bike-share permit program that launched in October 2017. His enthusiasm and interest in bike-sharing systems started duringhis final year at Roosevelt, where he analyzed Chicago’s DIVVY Bike Share Program and proposed specific strategies for DIVVY to implement a more inclusive transportation service for a wider range of users with varying income levels. He expanded on that project during his graduate studies, by conducting a transportation accessibility index between multiple modes of transportation in the City of Chicago to find relationships with socio-economic factors in hopes of improving employment and housing accessibility for low-income residents. Having had the opportunity to live in Dublin, Ireland and travel to European countries, Brenden continues to be inspired by other cultures, cities, and programs that support, encourage, and promote sustainable, multi-modal, and active living lifestyles. Now having lived and worked in Denver, Colorado for over one year, Brenden continues to be an advocate for transportation initiatives and strives towards personal and professional passions in the Urban Planning world.


Published in January 2018

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