Follow ups: Winter biking? and some more examples of rent-a-bikes

Got some great comments so far. Jay’s been particularly active in the comments and he offers some great advice/opinions etc.

So, his latest question was,  “what do you do with the rent-a-bikes in the winter?”

Hmmm… good question. France was pretty mild (my year there was actually the worst they had ever had- usually don’t get snow). Not exactly here.

I know that Toronto was thinking about the project (trying to find the Star article now but can’t…this ran last summer when I just got back).  So, if they were thinking about it, Ottawa could at least give it a thought.

My solution? Hard to say, but probably would take them away for the winters. Winter biking can be pretty dangerous although just by quickly googling “Ottawa winter biking”, I got some interesting finds.  One says that Ottawa roads are great 88% of the time, another one showed pictures of his frozen beard and ruined bike. So… yeah, I’d probably take them away during the winter.  I have this feeling that some crazy New Year’s Eve partiers would somehow think that taking them out for a ride in the snow while intoxicated would be a good idea.

Again, perhaps I’m just an optimist, but I still think that this could work. The system could shut down for a few months in the winter but be back up for spring, summer, fall. Even then, think about this past December…. it felt like March!

Who knows, maybe with global warming, we could have this all year round:)

Good friend just passed me this too:

Two years ago we reported on Lyon’s city bike hire program. A user pays version of the garishly coloured schemes of similar ilk that have been available in Northern Europe for years. Then we observed London, Paris and Barcelona had rolled out similar programs. (Petz did a recap here). Toronto didn’t want to be outdone, so had the Community Bicycle Network, which ran it’s Yellow Bikes, until operations were suspended this year, though we think the University of Calgary might still have their U-bike program to help Canada save face.


4 thoughts on “Follow ups: Winter biking? and some more examples of rent-a-bikes

  1. Jay Godse says:

    Next question:

    So suppose you rent bicycle storage to store bikes from October through March. Let’s suppose that you get a nice storage space with, say, a PODS 16 foot container (16’x8’x8′). It will cost you about $400 for moving the container back & forth plus $240 per month for a total of about $1900 for 6 months. I’m going to guess that each bike occupies about 4’x2’x4′ (assuming that quick release front wheels can be removed and attached to the frame), which means that you can store about 2 bicycles per foot of container length, on average, for a total of 32 bicycles. Let’s also suppose that you have a good looking female math geek negotiate with those hairy PODS guys for a 30% volume discount. So…($1900/32 bikes)*(100%cost – 30%discount)/100) gives you about $42/year/bicycle per bicycle just for storage during the off months.

    I’m going to assume that the bicycles can be bought for about $120 per bike in volume, and including management, can be operated for about $40 per year and last for 10 years. Even without using present-value funky math, that comes to about $52/year/bicycle for ownership.

    Next, you have to rent out some prime real estate to store your bicycles, and pay an attendant. Attendant costs $15/hour (load labour rate) for 14 hours per day, for a total of $210/day. Let’s assume that the city gives you some prime real-estate at a sweetheart deal of $1/square foot per month. For 64 bicycles per location, and 6 square feet per bicycle (assuming storage in a double-ended queue), and 33% extra for bicycles that come from other locations, management, access, security, and wasted space), that comes to (64*6*1.33)=512 square feet, or $512 per month for 6 months, for a total fo $3072 per year for 64 bicycles, or $48 per bicycle per year.

    So far, we have an ownership cost of about $142/year/bike to buy them, store them, park them, maintain them, and collect money. If we add on a very modest management, insurance, and marketing costs, it is about $150/year/bicycle.

    You are going to collect this money from the users of the service. The problem is that most avid cyclists will find it more convenient to buy a $120 bike and store it at home, and to take to it to a service shop for $40 per year, because using the same math, the bike costs $52 per year. Even if the bike is stolen every 3 years, they still come out ahead.

    The cost model works better in cities with 12-month bicycling because you have more months to rent, (12 versus 5), you don’t have to store them in the off season, and 12 month cycling means that you don’t have to incur the direct or transitive fixed costs of alternate private (buy a car, license, insurance) or public transportation (purchase, license, insurance passed on through cost of bus passes).

    Do you have a revenue model that can turn a profit with this cost model? Or, am I out to lunch, and you have a more realistic cost model and a profitable revenue model?

  2. Jay Godse says:

    D’oh! My final number didn’t include the costs of the attendants. Which is about $3/day/bicycle. This error doesn’t change the conclusion.

  3. […] idea… solutions anyone? Jay has now provided a great answer to his first question “what to do with the bikes in the winter”. (first article here) Interesting….. he pretty much proves (mathematically;) how this idea […]

  4. Give me an old cool bicycle, and I’ll ride around the city for days.

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