Urban Living: Bike and Car Share Programs Make Life Easier (And Greener, Too!)

by Jessica Brita-Segyde

Have you heard of bike-sharing and car-sharing? These aren’t taxi rides and they’re not even crowd-sourced rides like Uber. Bike sharing and car sharing are something different entirely, and they’re getting more popular every day.

Companies like Mogo, Zagster, Enterprise CarShare, and ZipCar know that just because people want to go green doesn’t mean they want to move over to the passenger seat. With bike- and car-sharing companies, you keep your driving privileges. Here’s a synopsis of how they work:

BIKE-SHARING

Bike-sharing is an extension of the rental bike industry. It’s useful in densely-populated urban areas, on college campuses, and in areas where tourism is prevalent. With bike-sharing you’re essentially renting a bike, but the opportunity for spontaneity is more prevalent and there’s no closing time. You can come and go as you please and return your bike to a designated lockup spot at any hour of the day or night.

MoGo is a bike-sharing company that’s gaining popularity in Detroit. Ironic, right? The motor city is pushing to lead a carbonless, two-wheeled industry. But the city’s investment in bike-sharing is working. MoGo now has over 400 bikes at over 40 locations in Detroit.

Here’s how bike-sharing works: Users purchase a pass in one of three ways – online, with the app, or at a kiosk near the bikes. A registered user can then borrow a bike from any location and return it to any location at any time. Pricing is tiered based on use. A typical bike-sharing plan costs $8 per day or $80 per month for unlimited use. Some bike-sharing companies offer a one-time use pass for around $5.

Why use a bike-sharing system? For tourists, it’s a terrific way to get around. Bringing your bike along on vacation can be cumbersome or impossible. With bike-sharing, you get the fitness benefit of cycling and the financial benefit of reduced transportation cost. For locals and college students, bike-sharing eliminates the need to park or store a bike when it’s not in use, and you won’t need a lock unless you’re stopping at locations outside the company’s footprint.

CAR-SHARING

Businesses in the char-sharing industry aim to make driving less burdensome for the environment while at the same time making a few things easier on the customer. The environmental benefit comes in the form of reduced carbon emissions. Companies like Enterprise CarShare and ZipCar make automobiles available to customers as-needed, reducing the number of vehicles on the road.

Car-sharing also benefits consumers financially, especially in densely-populated urban areas and on college campuses. Long-term parking is expensive. Street parking or metered spots are scarce and often impose a two-hour limit. Car-sharing services not only save on parking costs, they also eliminate the need to park or store a car when it’s not in use.

And consider this consumer benefit: The cost to utilize a car-sharing service is less expensive than the cost to own and maintain a personal automobile. Let’s compare owning an automobile versus sharing a fleet…

According to a 2016 survey by Consumer Reports, the yearly cost to maintain a 10-year-old sedan ranges from $315 to $1,125, depending on the model. (Costs will be less if the car still carries a warranty.) Edmunds.com reported that the average monthly car payment for a new car is $483, for a total yearly cost of $5,796. (If you want to calculate the monthly car payment for a car you are looking at, check out this calculator!) The Insurance Information Institute reports that the nationwide average cost for automobile insurance is around $840. Gasoline prices and usage vary wildly, but according to the United States Energy Information Administration, the average expenditure for gas and motor oil is around $1,900 annually. That means the average yearly cost to own and maintain a new vehicle, even when parking is free and plentiful, still averages over $9,000.

With a car-sharing service the customer doesn’t own a vehicle, so there are no repair costs or car payments. The yearly cost to belong to the service is typically around $60, with an hourly fee for use of the vehicles. Gas and insurance are included in the fee. Hourly fees vary by city but typically hover around $5. Assuming 3 hours per day of use, five days per week, the monthly cost to share would be $300. That brings the total yearly cost of car-sharing to around $3,600.

THE DOWNSIDE TO SHARING A CAR OR BIKE

There are some drawbacks to sharing a car or bicycle. You don’t have exclusive use of the vehicle so you’ll have to remove all personal items when you return it. Parents of younger children may find this especially cumbersome if they must remove and haul car seats frequently. A second disadvantage to sharing vehicles is reduced spontaneity. The car or bike you need may not be parked nearby, and last-minute reservations can be difficult to obtain during peak transit times.

SHOULD YOU SHARE A VEHICLE?

Sharing vehicles is a great option for people who want to avoid the cost and responsibility of owning, and for those who need a short-term solution. Car- or bike-sharing doesn’t have to be an all or nothing decision. If you live in an area where sharing vehicles is an option, give it a try for a few months and see how things go. Your carbon footprint will grow smaller as will your monthly expenses. It’s worth a try!

If Urban living is something you are interested in, check out our other posts in the series: Urban Living Has its Perks and Make the Most of Your City's Trail System.

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