Fairness and affordability for bike share

How we approached the pricing model for Beryl bike share

When we sat down to develop the pricing model for the Beryl bike share scheme, affordability was front of mind. As a registered B Corp, we are committed to both covering all our business costs, while also ensuring we offer a fairly-priced service to our riders. But we really wanted to understand what “fair” looked like for our riders - there are lots of ways that pricing can feel unfair, regardless of how much it actually costs.

Pricing models in the market

To understand how people currently pay for moving around, we looked at companies within the transport industry, as well as outside it. We then spoke to as many bike share riders as possible to understand their pain points and we started to sketch out what ‘better’ looked like.

The “Flat fee for a single journey” model

With this model, you pay the same whether you use the bike for 5 minutes or 25 minutes. Overall, we found this was a point of frustration for people, and often stops people from using bike share for those shorter journeys, opting for a longer walk or just not going instead. Of course, the time on your bike isn’t always directly correlated to the amount of value it provides to you. For example, if you are running late for a train, 5 minutes on a bike could save you from losing that seat and having to buy another ticket. In terms of value creation, that’s significant.

With this insight, we set ourselves the challenge of finding a way to promote, not discourage, short journeys on our bikes.

The Membership model

For most bike share schemes in the UK, you can purchase an annual membership. The up-front cost feels significant, but if you are a regular user of the scheme, you are guaranteed to get your money's worth.

However, with annual membership, you run into a similar problem to the flat fare; if you are only a fair-weather rider, it feels inherently unfair that you have to pay for 12 months, if you only use 6, no matter what the monthly cost works out to be.

This inspired us to explore how we could offer a more flexible option for riders, while providing them the value and convenience of an annual membership.  

The “Unlock fee + Pay Per Minute” model

Many companies have opted for an Unlock Fee + Pay Per Minute model. This feels fairer - you are paying for what you use - but with a flat unlock fee (often £1 based on the companies we looked at), you are still disincentivising those shorter journeys.

We wanted to reimagine this option for our frequent riders; how could we reward them for riding more frequently with us by removing the unlock fee?

The Beryl pricing model

Affordability, flexibility and fairness were the key tenets we based our model on. Having understood the frustrations that riders felt with the existing pricing structures, we opted for a new model:

We reward riders for using our service regularly; that 5 minute ride when you’re running late will only cost you 25p if you’ve bought a Minute Bundle. Far cheaper than any other transport option, aside from walking.

For those who are using us ad hoc, we have a minimum £1 unlock fee (this is because credit card and transaction fees for anything under £1 are very steep), but you only pay for what  you use once you’ve unlocked the bike.

How do we compare?

When we look at the other bike share options out there, we are providing one of the most affordable, flexible options:

Getting more people cycling

Our mission as a business is to get more people in cities on bikes - we are dedicated to making that happen through providing the best rider experience possible. Our belief is that fair, affordable and flexible pricing will be the first step towards that ambition.

However, we are not finished with the pricing model forever. We want to learn and take feedback from our riders; what is working, what isn’t? We are building bike share with our riders who will all have a different perception of value and fairness - our pledge to them is that we will never stop listening and hope that, with their help, we will develop the best, and the fairest, way to offer bike share.