How bike shares shrink cities and the magic of free
San Francisco’s bike share is expanding by an order of magnitude from 700 bikes to 7000 bikes. As new stations are added the value of the system grows faster than a linear rate. This is a classic example of network effects. But today, I want to focus more on some other aspects of bike shares.
Bike shares, at least in the USA, have two important properties. First, they are typically free at the time of use, relying on annual subscriptions. Second, they’re mostly immune to traffic because it’s so easy to go between lanes and around stopped vehicles. And because biking is three to five times faster than walking, bike shares open up a wide range of trips that were too expensive to lyft and too slow to walk.
This makes it easier to have a business that’s off the main strip, as long as it’s worth going to. Even if the surrounding streets feel unsafe to walk on, a bike might be fast enough for this not to matter.
And it makes each station a hub. If I ran almost any kind of business I’d want a bike share out front. More eyeballs, and more convenient.
I expect this to be a common perk that companies offer their employees. I also expect the next generation of bikes to be electric, making hills and sweat a thing of the past.
This is a great direction for dense cities to move into, especially for larger cities like New York and Taipei where the urban core can be many miles across.