Is bikeshare good or bad for bike shop business? A case study of Paris market

Context of the study

Operated by JCDecaux since its launch in 2007, the Paris public bike sharing system, Vélib’, has changed operator for the 2018-2032 period. Smovengo was designated as the new provider by the joint association “Autolib’ et Vélib’ Métropole”.

This operator change implied the replacement of all bike terminals, and maintenance works started in autumn 2017. These works caused an important decline in Vélib’ availability: at the beginning of July 2018, only 750 stations out of the 1 400 planned were operational and subscriptions went down from 300 000 in 2017 to 220 000 by the end of April 2018.

The objective of this research is to analyze the tendency of Vélib’ users to shift to a personal bike as a reaction to temporary service shut-down. Indeed, if the lack of Vélib’ availability resulting from the change in operator was strongly mediatized, there is no existing data analyzing the relation between the Vélib “shut down” and the personal bike market. Such analysis would have major consequences for local authorities that set up or are looking to set up a bike-sharing system. Furthermore, the evolution of the bicycle market in relation to the development of a bike sharing services remains to be investigated.

This study, carried out on behalf of the ADEME, endeavors to:

  • Explore the current state of the personal bike market in Paris
  • Analyze market evolutions as they relate to the launch and development of the Vélib’ system
  • Study users’ modal shift towards personal bikes.

Face-to-face interviews were conducted in April 2018 in all Parisian bike stores (total of 89 vendors interviewed). This survey allowed 6t to gather both quantitative and qualitative data on the following topics:

  • State of affairs of the bike market in Paris: length of service and geographical distribution of stores, type of stores (independent or chains), offer and turnover allocation.
  • Profiles of bike salesmen (career path and motivations)
  • Impact of Vélib’ on the Parisian bicycle market since its launch in 2007
  • Impact of Velib’ replacement works that started in autumn 2017
  • Impact of free-floating bike sharing services on the bicycle market

Key results

  • Out of all vendors surveyed, 20% declared they could not say whether the launch of the Vélib’ service had an impact on their sales. However, some vendors mentioned that, by encouraging cycling in Paris, Vélib’ has had a favorable impact on their activities. To them, people first experiment with Vélib’, then switch to a personal bike. They also consider that Vélib’ contributed to the development of a “cycling culture” in Paris.
  • About a third (30%) of vendors declared that their sales rose following the temporary Vélib’ ‘shut down’. Vendors in large chain stores are most categorical in their statements on the topic. This can be explained by the fact that these chains offer bikes at an affordable price, well-suited for first-time buyers.
  • 3 out of 4 vendors surveyed declared that the launch of free-floating shared bike services in Paris (Ofo, mobike) had no impact on their sales. They nevertheless consider that these low- quality bikes have a negative impact on people’s image of bikes, when users first experiment urban cycling through these services.
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