Interbike Blog

Bike sharing and retail bike sales

Here’s a mini-post (not micro enough for Twitter) on something that I heard at the Bicycle Leadership Conference back in April. I was cleaning my desk off and found my little Embassy Suites notepad with some things I jotted down that caught my attention during the sessions. This one is from comments made by Gilles Vesco of Lyon’s urban mobility government agency presentation during the bike sharing panel.

Bike Sharing in Lyon, France

I’ve heard some discussion of the effect that a bike sharing program would have on local retailers. Would the availability of free or low-cost loaner bikes cause less people to buy bikes for themselves?

Not so, according to Mr. Vesco. “Bike sharing spurs retail sales of bikes,” he stated emphatically. Paraphrasing his reasoning, he said that all of the additional bikes on the road as a result of a sharing program “rebalance” the public space and the relationship between bikes and cars. Bike sharing places a critical mass (in the most positive and sharing sense of the term) of bikes onto the streets causing people to see cycling in the city as safer.

And safety, as we’ve all heard from so many non-cycling friends of ours, is one of the major points of resistance for more mainstream adoption of cycling. With more bikes on the streets, though, drivers are more aware of and are more accepting of their right to be there. The perceived added safety of so many other fellow cyclists encourages more people to get into cycling and to buy a bike.

Here’s a recent piece of local bike sharing news for those of us in Orange County, California: “European style” bike-sharing to begin in Newport Beach.”

As Mr. Vesco said at the beginning of his presentation: “Nothing is stronger than an idea whose time has come.” Amen.


  1. Be cautious with traffic signals in newly launched bike-sharing program at Newport Beach of Orange County in Southern California. The Newport Beach Police Headquarters (NBPD) headquarters is between the two entrances to California nature preserve with a one-way multi-use roadway for cycling. The entrance just north of the NBPD headquarters has a bicycle button with only a 4 second green light and 1 second yellow pause if one or no cars are present. The situation is highly dangerous as cars accelerate before a bicycle can even make it to the median. And police cars park at the corner’s service station to await violations. The entrance south of the NBPD headquarters requires using a left turn lane. For about a decade, the lane had motion sensors to detect bicyclists turning into the state preserve. Civil Principal Engineer Tony Brine and Traffic Engineer replied to my email that the signal had been set back to not detect bicycles. By laying the bicycle across the embedded wires and waiting for a signal change, you might sometimes activate the traffic light. Meanwhile, NBPD police cars and motorcycles park in the condominium driveway to chase bicycles and fabricate vehicle citations. California has Statute AB-1581 for traffic signals to detect bicycles upon replacement or first installation. In a telephone call with NBPD Sergeant Mike James, he supported police chasing bicyclists and was oblivious to Statute AB-1581. During another call with NBPD Lieutenant Steve Shulman, he laughed. Lt. Shulman sent me a two-page letter justifying police chasing bicycles and to use crosswalks. As you bike-share in Newport Beach, don’t trust the bicycle buttons and use crosswalks. The Newport Beach Police Department (NBPD) at 148 uniformed and 90 non-security is over-staffed and underproductive. Bicyclists are fodder to generate revenue and show productivity.

  2. Hi Rich,

    I concur. More bikes in the world has got to be a better thing for bicycling. More bikes means more bike riders, more bike parts & repairs, more bike accessories. I look at what the VHS tape did for the movie industry as an example. Remember how the big complaint was that no one would want to go the the theater any more now that movies could been seen at home without interruption? What actually happened was that a new and lucrative revenue stream was created.