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Community Bicycle Programs - Bike Library - Bicycle Sharing - Public Use Bicycles Issues





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If you have questions or expertise about community bike programs, please join the email-based Community Bike Forum.  There are rarely more than a couple message a week.  The discussion focuses on community bike, earn-a-bike, free bike, bike library, bike sharing and other forms of cooperative bicycle programs. It provides those new to the movement an opportunity to get information that will help them along and those with experience an opportunity to share their knowledge and further expand the movement.  To subscribe send an e-mail to [email protected].   Please forward this information to others who might be interested.

Starting a Community Bike Program

Community bike programs covers a wide variety of endeavors (bike library, bicycle sharing, public use bicycles, bike cooperative / collectives, check-out bikes, tool collective or libraries, community bike shop, youth programs, earn-a-bike programs, adult classes in mechanics, commuting, touring, etc, bicycle recycling group, etc.), with a wide variety of structures and without well defined boundaries between types of programs.  No two community bike programs are the same.  Local variation and human nature would suggest that yours probably won't be exactly like any other as well.  So, don't be concern if the organic nature and momentum on your project seems to be creating, yet again, a new and different organizational structure or emphasis.  At the same time there are lessons to be learned from the experiences of other.  Here are some tips that might help:

  1. Don't try to do too much. Think about sustainability from the beginning. Get a clear mission, define your niche -- initially the narrower the better -- and stick with it. It will be more sustainable, and you will be more productive if you do one thing well, rather than get overwhelmed and bogged down trying to organize something for everybody.  Focus on making sure you gather the core space, people, equipment to your focused project happening and thriving. 
  2. As you perfect your core project you can always add other elements later.  With the experience that you will have gained, you will have a better idea of what kinds of programs would most benefit your community.
  3. It is very difficult to do as a single person.  At the same time, with too large an organizing committee it can be hard to get the focus.  Start your project with a small group of committed like-minded people.
  4. Remember that your volunteers matter as much as the people you serve or who will use the shop.  The volunteers are the backbone of new programs.  Program start up takes time.  It's really important to avoid volunteer burn out.  Nurturing volunteers is a topic in itself -- make them feel productive actually helps keep it fun and makes them happy.
  5. If and when you create a partnership with another organization, create a structure / relationship where the benefits to your mission at least equal the time and effort the collaboration is going to demand.
  6. Address liability / insurance issues and protect the organizers/board.
  7. Tap into the experience and knowledge existing project.  Lists of these can be access from Community Bike Program Directory and Youth Bike Program Directory.
  8. Note that as schemes get bigger and more complex they have often had to compromise their environmental credentials:  The big corporate owned hi-tech systems a having to learn how to distribute bikes so that there are bikes available when and where they are need and parking spaces available when the bikes subsequently need to be dropped off.  Fleets of trucks are being used to move the inventory as required.  It has become a science to predict where the bikes will go, and how this is influenced by the weather, day of the week, time of day, geography, holidays, etc.

Case Studies of Free Bike / Bicycle Library / Community Bike / Bicycle Sharing / Yellow Bike programs

Community Bike Programs Homepage



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The International Bicycle Fund is an independent, non-profit organization. Its primary purpose is to promote bicycle transportation. Most IBF projects and activities fall into one of  four categories: planning and engineering, safety education, economic development assistance and promoting international understanding. IBF's objective is to create a sustainable, people-friendly environment by creating opportunities of the highest practicable quality for bicycle transportation. IBF is funded by private donation. Contributions are always welcome and are U.S. tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.

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