On a recent holiday to Mallorca, Balearic Islands, Spain I was pleased to see even this small city (population 400,000) has an urban bike-sharing initiative. Bicipalma.
Most of the bikes were of the “standard” step-through (col de cygne) type, often used for urban bike sharing, but there were also some with front suspension forks.
Which begs the question:
What is the ideal spec for urban bike sharing?
To my mind suspension shouldn’t be needed. It adds maintenance complexity and weight that probably outweighs its usefulness in a city environment.
Grip shifters seem to be ubiquitous on these bikes. Personally they are my least favourite shifting mechanism, but theoretically more accessible to “non-cyclists”, so if that’s true, then it’s a fair choice.
I’m not sure these fairly flimsy baskets are a good idea. I can imagine them being quickly bent out of shape, making the bike look badly maintained and discouraging riders from using them.
Mudguards/fenders are essential, but they should probably be sturdier than those used on the front wheels here, which can easily bend out of alignment and rub the tyre. The rear wheel mudguard/fender solution is better and offers some spoke protection, which doubles as real estate for reflective strips and advertising.
I guess these bikes have hub gears – I didn’t see a derailleur. Hub brakes appear to be the norm, which seems a good, low maintenance choice that should have a good lifespan.
The use of rear v-brakes here isn’t a great solution in my view. They might be cheaper to buy than hub brakes but require regular adjustment and pad replacement when used as often as these are likely to be. If not replaced regularly enough, they risk damaging the rims, requiring regular monitoring and mechanic time. Also loss of braking power in wet weather isn’t ideal in a crowded urban environment, so hub brakes would be best.
Positioning of the rear LED cluster on the seat post also isn’t ideal. It should really be higher, larger and more visible, not obscured by the rear mudguard/fender. The bike with the suspension in the background has a better placed light, though they could arguably also be larger and higher. Go large and visible!
The station I saw had a number of open slots, so I assume some were in use (or permanently decommissioned). Again, as in San Francisco, I didn’t notice anyone using them while I was in town.
So I guess the ideal bike-share bicycle must be: solid, low maintenance, reliable, accessible, safe and attractive.
The good news is, while not perfect, almost all the solutions I have seen so far meet most all of these criteria.
What do you think could be improved on these bikes to make them more popular?