Is Cincy RedBike America’s Most Financially Successful Bike-Share System?

RedBike Monthly Ridership Totals

RedBike Monthly Ridership Totals

Since launching nearly two years ago, RedBike has been embraced by the region in a way even the bike-share system’s early proponents had not imagined.

When RedBike opened to the public on September 15, 2014 it included 29 stations, but has since swelled to 57 stations spanning two states, four cities and more than a dozen neighborhoods. The ability to expand and integrate the system across state and city lines is particularly notable as it is a feat most other bike-share systems in North America have not yet achieved.

This relatively rapid expansion has been fueled by higher than expected ridership. As of early July, RedBike had hosted 116,739 rides – or about 5,300 per month. Bolstered by more than 1,500 annual members, these ridership totals translate into some 17,683 different people who have ridden a RedBike.

“Red Bike has gotten off to a dream start. Our community has embraced this new form of transportation,” Leslie Maloney, President of the Red Bike Board of Directors and Senior Vice President of the Carol Ann and Ralph V. Haile, Jr./U.S. Bank Foundation, said in a prepared release. “We will work to continue providing the highest quality and most fun transportation option in Cincinnati.”

Following the trends of bike-share systems elsewhere throughout the world, approximately 74% of its riders have either never ridden a bike before or at least not within the month before RedBike opened. This data makes many bike advocates in the region looking for ways to improve road safety for the surge of new cyclists out on the streets.

The biggest news in RedBike’s recently released annual report, however, pertains to its finances.

While many bike-share systems around the country have struggled financially, RedBike has been able to operate in the black since its inception, and has grown its cash reserves year-over-year.

In 2014 RedBike had a total of $234,251 in expenses and $1,144,911 in revenues. That net income grew in 2015 when the bike-share system had $484,389, but $1,740,792 in revenues. This net income, RedBike officials say, is used to purchase capital equipment necessary to keep the system fully functional.

While it is difficult to find bad news in the financial details released by RedBike, one might look at the fact that direct program income (user fees) cover only 65% of program expenses. When factoring in sponsorships, a fairly reliable and steady stream of income, it covers nearly 118% of program expenses.

All of the other income sources help to further stabilize the system, keep it operating at reliable and optimal levels, and are helping build a reserve fund that could be used to offset unexpected capital expenses or lower than anticipated operational performance.

UC Health is thrilled to be the presenting sponsor of the RedBike program,” said Dr. Richard P. Lofgren, President and CEO of UC Health. “As someone who lives downtown, all I have to do is look outside to see how successful this program is, and how bike share has been embraced by the citizens of Cincinnati.”

  • Brian Boland

    Imagine if the city had implemented more bike lanes in more neighborhoods, the numbers might be even better.

    • Derek Drifmeyer

      With more riders and a more diverse group of riders, public opinion towards cycling infrastructure in Cincinnati is changing for the better. We just need to a get a mayor that understands the city’s needs.

    • SC

      Or a mayor who is just willing to follow the city’s bicycle plan. PBL should already be up to Ludlow (not debated taking out) and other roads have been paved and have ignored that we were going to add bike lanes.

  • Marc Raab

    Let’s continue this momentum by putting more city streets on “road diets.”

    Most city streets are overbuilt for the capacity they handle. Re-striping them to add inbound and outbound bike lanes is a cost effective way to get more people comfortable riding on city streets. Then Red Bike should look to expand to some of the outer neighborhoods.

  • Matt Jacob

    How does this compare to other bike share systems around the nation? It’s clear that it’s doing well here, but I thought many other systems were doing well too (outside of a few bad eggs).

    • DeCouseau Zhoyieerre

      Cincinnati has 1500 members with an annual membership compared to Columbus which has 440 members with an annual membership.

    • I think Randy was making a dig at the Enquirer by including a headline that doesn’t relate to the article… 😉

    • In your opinion you find the headline unrelated to the article? The headline talks about RedBike being financially successful…moreso than other systems. The article talks about the system’s finances and the fact that it generates surplusses while most other systems do not.

    • I was mainly just trying to push your button. But I did find it odd a question was posed in the headline that wasn’t even addressed in the article.

    • Matt Jacob

      I agree. It was a good recap of Red Bike’s financial success, but very little with how it stacked up to the rest of America. It will be interesting to see how the new streetcar impacts this success as well.