Step 4: How costs relate to different ways to run a scheme - things to consider

You can read more about the different ways to run community bike schemes here. For this step we have included some considerations for how each type may impact the costs for your scheme.

Loan models: 

Many organisations choose to run loan models which means users have a bike for certain periods of time, often a week or longer. This can reduce administrative and maintenance costs, as bikes need to be checked less frequently and there is more down time in between hires. If you are relying on hire costs as a source of income from these loans, you may want to have competitive prices for the loans, as well as greater promotion of the bikes to ensure they are regularly hired by users.

Daily hire:

This refers to schemes where bikes are taken out and returned the same day – or even by the hour. There are greater administrative and health and safety challenges for daily hires. Bikes need to be checked more regularly and customers need to be engaged with more frequently. Build this awareness into your business model.


On street bike share usually involves installing docking stations where the bikes are located. Users can hire the bikes from one docking station and return them to another. An example of an on-street bike share with docking stations is the Forth Bike scheme. New technology has made it feasible for community groups to run these types of schemes, and for any member of the public to access them. Such schemes are more expensive and require higher density numbers to make them cost-effective overall. An example to follow up with is the Forth Bike scheme. Docked on-street bikes have not been tried in more rural areas. As they are more expensive to run from an operational point of view, you may need grants or other forms/sources of income if you do not get enough footfall to cover costs with the ridership fees. You can read more about this in our guidance.

You can see examples of what other groups charge here (or contact specific ones for more information).

Costs related to automated or tech-based solutions for running a bike share scheme versus manual:

Many small schemes in Scotland run manually – for example, someone physically handing over the bikes to riders, providing a simple bike lock and taking bookings or providing user agreements etc, either online or on paper. There are different ways to reduce the burden this can put on volunteers or staff by reducing contact time and doing lots of the work via smart phones and other types of management systems.

There are specific solutions that can be used (and you can pick and choose which ones) such as: 

  • more sophisticated booking and billing methods or software 
  • trackers to help you capture journey data and bike locations
  • whole sharing solutions where a company could do most of the work for you
  • smart locks which allow bikes to be unlocked using a smart phone

All these options come with an associated cost, so you will need to consider the benefits they may bring and build these into your business plan. You may find that prospective income or grants could cover them for a couple of years, for example.

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