World’s Biggest Bike-Share Programs

Where I live in Ottawa, there has been a lot of media attention given to the launch of a new bike sharing system with a grand total of 100 bicycles at 10 stations in the Ottawa/Gatineau region. But our program is positively dwarfed by the bike sharing systems being launched in other parts of the world.

Who has the biggest bike share program?

According to GOOD, cities like Montreal, Mexico City, Washington D.C., London and Paris have all launched bike share programs with between 1,000 and 10,000 bicycles. But even those fairly well known bike share programs are nothing in comparison with the 50,000+ bicycle system that Hangzhou, China has been building over the past few years.

According to Elizabeth Press of, who produced a video on Hangzhou’s bike sharing program:

Hangzhou’s 2,050 bike-share stations are spaced less than a thousand feet from each other in the city center, and on an average day riders make 240,000 trips using the system. Its popularity and success have set a new standard for bike-sharing in Asia. And the city is far from finished. The Hangzhou Bicycle Company plans to expand the bike-share system to 175,000 bikes by 2020!

People interviewed in the film mentioned, among other things, the benefits of being able to avoid traffic congestion by traveling by bike.

While articles like the ones from and GOOD mention that Hangzhou’s program is the biggest one in the world, the jury is still out on that. A China Travel Advice website mentions a bike share program in Wuhan that has 70,000 bicycles and claims that it is possible to pick up a bicycle within a radius of 800 meters anywhere in the city.

The Helmet Conundrum

One frequently talked about issue when it comes to bike share programs is how to deal with the helmet issue. In many parts of the world, bike helmets are not common. But in other areas, like Canada, that are trying to push these programs, helmets are at least encouraged if not required.

According to the Bike Sharing Blog, Melbourne, Australia’s bike share program is the only one in the world that requires the use of a helmet. In Mexico City, they actually reversed the law that required the use of a helmet in order to facilitate the introduction of Ecobici, their bike share program (source: Copenhagenize).

Having helmets provided by the bike share program has been dismissed in most jurisdictions for a variety of reasons, including:

  • hygiene (e.g. lice)
  • sweat
  • sizing
  • safety (no way of knowing if the helmet has been in a crash or otherwise compromised)

It seems as though cyclists will need to either plan to take their own helmet with them when using these programs or opt to accept the safety risks of riding without a helmet.

Have you tried bike sharing?

Is there a bike sharing program where you live? If so, have you tried it? What was your experience? How did you handle the helmet issue?

Related stories:

Did You Ride Your Bike To Work Today?

U.S. Cities Begin To Adopt Bike-Sharing

Bikeworks: One of the UK’s Best Young Social Enterprises

Annie blogs about the art and science of parenting at the PhD in Parenting blog.

Image credit: neiljs on flickr


Ray S.
Ray S.5 years ago

I love the idea of having a bike share program in major cities I think this should be implemented into all major cities. The benefits far outweigh the negatives. I have my own bike but if I was somewhere that I couldnt take my bike having the option to bike share would be great. I ride one like this daily to work

jessica w.
jessica w6 years ago


No Body
Chi Warrior6 years ago

i think that I would like to own my bicycle rather then sharing it

Jj S.
Janice S6 years ago

Thank you!

Carole K.
Carole K6 years ago

This is definitely a WIN/WIN; what's not to like? On one hand, it helps with congested transportation and offers a natural exercise program as well. If I were participating in this program; I would have my own helmet with me at all times. Easy enough to do. Oh yes, it would save fossil fuel too; so as to benefit the environment! Blow away all the small problematic roadblocks and promote this to the max!!!

Vera C.
Vera C6 years ago

Modena, Italy: bike sharing seems to work fine. City centre is closed to cars (except for people who actually need them, of course). No helmets, but nearly nobody wears them in Italy.

wizzy wizard
wiz w6 years ago

i am singing one of the queens song ( i like to ride my bike i like to ride it where i like). any one remember it and singing along to it

dve d.
aa b6 years ago

on your bike

Meg S.
Meg S6 years ago

I find it funny that some people don't think that there should be bike sharing. I actually chuckled - share haters :D

Alessandra C.

In my city, Bergamo, northern Italy, we have this system. It's not particularly common because our city is an acropolis (on top of a hill). Still many people like using bikesaround here but not to go to work, only for pleasure. Too bad!