The World’s Surprising Top 8 Bike Share Programs!

You'll be surprised to see who landed the spot 6!

So, right off the bat, if you don’t know what a bike-share is, it’s a program in which many bicycle stations are set up, and people can rent a bike to use for a certain time frame and return it at a different station. It’s seen in many cities where cycling infrastructure is growing and is considered an extremely important part of making cycling more accessible to people.

As cycling becomes more and more welcomed as a dominant method of inner-city travel in the first world, we’re going to see more and more of these bike shares, as well as see the existing ones expand (hopefully they’ll be expanding my local bike share – there never seems to be a bike available when I need it!).

These days, everyone knows Europe is basically the king when it comes to cycling infrastructure, so logically one would assume all the best bike-share programs must also be in Europe. While many of them are, the rest of the world has also been stepping its cycling game up in recent decades. 

Hangzhou bike sharing

Top 8 Bicycle-Sharing Programs

Below you’ll find a list of the world’s 8 best bike share programs by city. If you’re expecting Europe to dominate this list, then #1 comes as a shock to you. 

1 – Hangzhou, China

The city of Hangzhou, with a population of around 8.2 million, boasts the world’s largest bike-share program. In fact, no other bike share on earth touches the sheer numbers they have. Let’s take a tally. There are somewhere between 66,500 and 78,000 bicycles in their program, scattered across around 2700 stations.

There are so many city bikes that, in the downtown of the city, you can’t go 5 minutes without seeing one. But it gets better; the program is so successful that the local government has invested money to allow the Hangzhou Public Transport Corporation to expand. The invested amount is roughly the equivalent of 18.5 million UK pounds.

Because of the investment, the company has predicted that they will be operating with 175,000 bikes by 2020. Considering the program only started in 2008, I’d consider that some explosive expansion.

Despite the program’s insane success, there has been some minor controversy surrounding it. In 2010 an app was created that told users how many bikes were available at every station. While hailed among users as a real life-saver, Hangzhou Public Bicycle’s staff were not impressed. They claimed the data was taken illegally by the developers, and in 2012 they blocked Zhang Guangyu, the developers, from accessing the information, rendering the app useless.

Taiyuan bike sharing

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2 – Taiyuan, China

Europe may be the main innovator when it comes to cycling infrastructure, but in terms of sheer volume and reach, China is leading the way. I suppose it’s not fair, since China’s population is nearly double the entire population of Europe, but Taiyuan is worth mentioning for its position as the current runner-up to Hangzhou.

Part of the reason Taiyuan’s bike share belongs on this list is the fact that it’s expanded so much in so little time. It’s expanded so rapidly that nobody knows how many bikes are in their circulation, with estimates ranging from 20,000 to an impressive 41,000, and around 1000 stations. And it is still growing. And it’s pretty easy to understand why too; it’s simple to use the bikes, and it’s cheap. In fact, it’s free as long as you use the bike for under an hour.

Paris bike sharing

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3 – Paris, France

When people call it the city of love, I don’t think a love of bicycles is what they have in mind. However, Paris earns the number 3 spot on this list because of how awesome their bike share program is. It’s not surprising that Paris has such a high spot here; France is one of the hearts of the international cycling community and is a major player in cycling history.

The bike sharing program, called Vélib’, is the largest bike share outside of China, with around 20,000 bikes and over 1200 stations in their fleet. Bertrand Delanoë, who served as the mayor of Paris from 2001 to 2014, championed the creation of the bike share, which first debuted in July 2007.

The program is wildly successful and has set a great example for the rest of the world to follow. In 2011, its daily ridership was roughly 86,000 people, and that number has only grown since then. Vélib’ is often the program other cities point to when they attempt to sell the idea of a bike share in their municipality.

Vélib’ is not without its problems, however. There is a rampant problem with theft and vandalism. Many bikes are discarded, stripped for parts, and/or abandoned in a state of disrepair. Many are stolen and sold elsewhere, with some of the bikes turning up in places as far away as Romania. The costs associated with the theft and vandalism were so much higher than originally projected that the program ended up losing money in its first 3 years in operation.

Despite that, the program has balanced itself out and is now considered a huge success. Delanoë himself considers it one of the biggest triumphs of his political career.

Shanghai bike sharing

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4 – Shanghai, China

China is just dominating this list. We’re at #4, and China’s been mentioned 3 times already. Shanghai’s wildly successful bike share program is brought to you by Forever Bike, who supply the city with its iconic (and aesthetically pleasing) orange bikes. The bike share has over 19,000 bikes in service and roughly 600 different stations in use.

The bike share program is very popular among tourists. The system might be a little hard to understand for those who are unfamiliar with how bike shares work, but there are plenty of guides on how to rent one of the Forever Bikes.

Shanghai’s bike share benefits from the city’s modern infrastructure and a massive population looking to avoid traffic. Like Beijing, part of the success of the bike share comes from the sheer volume of people living in the city. Shanghai has the highest population in the country with the most people on earth. There is a high demand for bicycles there. Could you imagine if everyone in Shanghai drove a car? And you thought New York had bad traffic!

Like most bike share programs, Shanghai’s comes from a cooperative effort between business and government. Like all bike shares, there are a few downsides to Forever Bike’s orange fleet, but ultimately the program has been profitable and successful.

London bike sharing

5 – London, England

London’s bike share program started in 2010 and has grown enough to make this list. The London system used Vélib’ as a model, with Serco and the municipal government working together on the project to bring London’s bike share program to life. The program started with only 5000 Barclays bikes, but now they have over 11,000 bikes (sometimes affectionately named “Boris Bikes” after London mayor Boris Johnson) and are just shy of 750 stations.

The bike share has gotten all kinds of praise for its effectiveness and safety. The Road Danger Reduction Forum speculates that the reason might be attributed to motorists taking particular care to avoid accidents with these bikes. The bike share has been the subject of some controversy. Critics complained about the numerous start-up glitches that occurred and declared that the service was lacking. Still, Serco addressed these concerns and upgraded their service and their fleet. There are still many critics, but London residents have noticed a vast improvement in the quality of the bikes and the service itself, since its original debut in 2010.

New York bike sharing

6 – New York City, USA

New York City was one of the first places in the USA to adopt a bike share program on a large scale. While their fleet, numbering around 6000 bikes and 330 stations, is nowhere near the size seen in Paris and many Chinese cities, the Citi Bikes have certainly earned their spot on this list for several reasons. For starters, it is the largest bike share in the USA, even though it only started in 2013. There are expansion plans in place, designed to double the number of bikes on the street by 2017, officially making it bigger than London’s bike share.

Modeled after Montreal’s Bixi, the Citi Bikes are efficient and well-received, with many New Yorkers happily welcoming the program. The Citi Bikes are praised for helping alleviate New York’s rampant traffic problems that have been the butt of jokes all around the world (though, in reality, as a frequent visitor to NYC, these days traffic isn’t that bad, as long as you avoid traveling at rush hour).

The Citi Bikes originally began without any subsidy from the municipal government, which is extremely rare for bike share programs. Most programs are a joint effort from local business sponsors and the government. Capitalists and fiscal conservatives have pointed to this as the reason for the Citi Bike’s impeccable quality and maintenance.

Like Paris however, the Citi Bikes have suffered all kinds of problems with vandalism and theft. Critics have also complained that, compared to other bike shares around the world, the Citi Bikes are expensive to use.

Barcelona bike sharing

7 – Barcelona, Spain

Ah, Barcelona. What a beautiful city. And just like how Barcelona is one of the best-looking cities in Europe, their bike share bikes also have one of the most stylish designs I’ve seen on this list. Putting that aside, however, Bicing, the Barcelona bike share program, didn’t earn a spot on this list for simply looking good.

Modeled after the Paris bike share, Bicing is designed to encourage cycling as a viable means of travel. Part of the reason for Bicing’s popularity is people’s growing concern with the environment. Praised as a powerful initiative to cut down on greenhouse gasses, Bicing has been well-received.

While some feel this protects the Bicing bikes from the rampant vandalism problem that other bike shares face, it raises an important question about whether or not these bike shares should be accessible to as many people as possible or be members-only.

Montreal bike sharing

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8 – Montreal, Canada

If you love art, French-Canadian culture, and the winter, Montreal is the city for you. But there’s another thing Montreal is known for; cyclists. That’s right, as soon as the snow is cleared, the bikes come out and usually stay out right up until the roads turn into an icy wonderland that puts Disney’s Frozen to shame. But I digress. Montreal, as one of Canada’s major bike-friendly cities, naturally decided to fund its bike-sharing system, called Bixi.

Bixi is one of the most well-designed and effective bike shares in the world. It’s up there with Vélib’s and Hangzhou’s bike share. It’s so good that many cities in the West have modeled their bike shares after Bixi, including NYC.

I’m sure you’ve already guessed, but the Bixi bikes have suffered all kinds of troubles with vandalism and theft, like most bike shares (as an aside – what kind of jerk vandalizes a bike? That’s low).

The bike share consists of around 5200 bikes and 460 stations. Despite seeming small in comparison to other bike shares on this list, Bixi’s annual ridership is well over 3 million, meaning Montreal’s cyclists are getting their money’s worth out of the system.

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Should you have any questions or require further clarification on the topic, please feel free to connect with our expert author Dillon Hiles by leaving a comment below. We value your engagement and are here to assist you.

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4 thoughts on “The World’s Surprising Top 8 Bike Share Programs!”

  1. London’s bike was actually modeled after Bixi from Montreal. In fact Bixi sold their prototype to Ottawa, Toronto, New York, Melbourne and London. If you look at the bikes, they are all the same Bixi bike with minors differences. I just love Bixi! 🙂

  2. Thanks fot the North-global report about public bikes. Currently, Mexico has a public sharing system with about 700 stations and 9,000 bikes. A


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