The Bicycle Library - It Works!

We in Bicycle Innovation Lab have examined through a questionnaire how a bicycle library can contribute to a more sustainable transport. This knowledge gives us a better understanding of how we can move more people over to using the bicycle. Experiences from the bicycle library show that by offering a wider range of cycle types and testing them in practice has the potential of encouraging more people to cycle more often.
Although Copenhagen has a good bicycle infrastructure, it is not enough to get more people to cycle more often or for longer distances. Other factors must also come into play. The ability to test different types of bicycles in practice in the daily transportation changes how users in bicycle library perceive their own transportation options, and can motivate more people to cycle more often, for longer distances and to use the car less. The result is that the users in bicycle library take home with them the experience the bicycle library has given them, and the majority of users are considering purchasing a similar cycle as the borrowed one.
A cycle is more than just a mode of transport from A to B. The cycle as a design object, its riding characteristics and type are also important elements in getting more people to choose the cycle over other modes of transport. The users attach different values ​​to the different types of cycles, which also means that their cycle choice is very personal.

According to bicycle library’s questionnaire, it is important for the users that their cycle is fast and convenient, but other values ​​such that the cycle should be fun, inspiring and different, also seem to mean allot in the users choice of bicycle.

These more soft values, ​​that are not so measurable, are not always in focus when planning for cycling. Based on the bicycle library’s study, we in Bicycle Innovation Lab believe that the soft values should be taken more seriously, in order to provide a more comprehensive picture of cycling - if we want the bicycle to become a serious means of transport.

Here are selected results from the study.

Results from the study

Brilliant and innovative. If Copenhagen wants to profile itself as a cycling city No 1, 
then they should support more initiatives like this  
(Male, 26-35 years old, borrowed an electric Long John)

A fantastic idea. I will spread the word far and wide
 (Female, 56-65 years old, borrowed a el-cykel)

A lending period in the bicycle library is from Monday to Thursday or from Thursday to Monday. During the past year, 238 users in the bicycle library have participated in a questionnaire when they have returned the borrowed cycle. This has given us in Bicycle Innovation Lab a possibility to gather some knowledge about how the users have experienced the borrowed cycle and whether or not the cycle has offered the borrower some new transport options that they did not have before.

The vast majority of the library users already have a regular bicycle available, but are still searching for another type of cycle that can better meet their needs. More than half of the users come to the bicycle library because they are curious to try out a cycle with different design and different functions than what they are used to. There are also several users who come to the library to borrow a cycle because they are considering buying one similar. A few users sought out the bicycle library because they needed a cycle for a specific task. Several users are in this context interested in examining their own transportation options through one of the cycles in the library.

The users are generally very excited to try out the cycles in the bicycle library in practice. 79% of users say that they have had a good or fantastic experience on the borrowed bicycle. Although the cycles in the library differ from the ordinary bicycle in form and function, the vast majority of users experience the rideability on the borrowed cycle as good, and that safety is assured.

This cycle was fun to try, and it made me think about the possibilities that are in more unconventional bicycles 
(Male, 36-45 years old, borrowed a velomobile)

Most of the users have discovered other and more options for transportation through the bicycle library’s cycles, as other modes of transport cannot offer. The library’s questionnaire shows that more than half of the users are considering buying a similar cycle after having tested it.

Bicycles with Several Possibilities

      Get several departments of Bicycle Library :)

     (Male, 56-65 years old, borrowed a folding bike)

More places like this in town, would get more people to cycle. Really positive experience. Since bicycles as the ones they have in BIL are quite expensive, it is good that you can try them if you are considering buying! 

(Male, 26-35 years old, borrowed an electric Long John)

The cycles in the bicycle library offer different features that cover different needs. Therefore, it is necessary to try out different cycles to find out what cycle best suits your needs.
The five most popular types of bicycles in the library within the past year are:

According to the bicycle library’s study, these 5 types of bicycles have different qualities to offer. For example the electric bicycles motivate the users to cycle more and longer, the velomobile can motivate the users to cycle more in rain, and an electric Long John can motivate the users to use the car less. Read more about the five bicycle types here.

The Bicycle Library creates the opportunity for flexible transportation choices

"Good idea to let people borrow bicycles. It gives a better overview of which bicycle you want, 
and a better opportunity to try out the bicycles in practice” 
(Male, 26-35 years old, borrowed a recumbent)

“Great concept, great opportunity to try new bicycles and really good service” 
(Female, 18-25 years, borrowed a cargobike)

By offering a wide selection of different types of cycles the bicycle library can help broaden the users transporthorison. A large number of users in the bicycle library combine their transport by bus, train, car, etc.. The bicycle library can offer this group of users multiple transport options, so they can be more flexible in their choice of transportation, and in many cases will choose the cycle over other modes of transportation.
The interest of borrowing a bicycle lies in the fact that the different cycles in the library can cover some needs that a regular bicycle can not. For example, it may be to transport things, a helping push from an electric motor or just the desire to try something new and different.
The bicycle library’s study shows that the borrowed bicycles are made ​​active in the users everyday life. 90% of the users have used the borrowed bicycle every day or almost every day. The majority of users have used the borrowed bicycle for daily transportation, including transportation to and from school or work.

Let’s look at what kinds of needs that access to a wider range of cycle types can meet.

The Bicycle Library Expands the Users Transportations Options 

The Bicycle Library motivates the users to cycle more often and for longer distances

Use the comfortable electric bicycle to move the comfortable car driver to the electric bicycle
(Male, 56-65 years old, borrowed an electric-assist Long John)

As the quote above suggests, several bicycles in the library have a potential to change the users mobility habits. According to the library's study 46% of users say that they would cycle more and longer if they had a bicycle as the borrowed one.

The bicycle library study shows that the users have cycled long distances on the borrowed bicycle, which means that the use of other modes of transport have been unnecessary. This is interesting as a study made in connection with ‘Copenhagen Bicycle Strategy 2011-2025’ shows that when the distance is over 10 km more people prefer other modes of transport such as car, train, bus than the bike. According to our survey, the commuter bicycles in the bicycle library have a potential to break this pattern and get more people to cycle longer distances than the normal comfort level of 10 km. A third of users (35%) have cycled a longest trip between 10-20 km on the borrowed bicycle, while another while yet a third (36%) have cycled a trip of 20 km and above.

Bicycle Library bicycles can replace the car in the form of transporting goods

I had carried my brothers around Copenhagen a whole weekend. It was faster, cheaper and more fun than public transport 
(Male, 18-25 years, borrowed a cargobike)

The bicycle library study shows that several users (20%) experience that the borrowed bicycle solves a transport need, they otherwise had to solve by car or transport. Following this point 7% of users say that they would drive less if they had a bicycle similar to the one borrowed.

According to a study made in connection with ‘Copenhagen's Bicycle Strategy 2011-2025’ many people prefer the car over the bicycle, even when the distance is between 2-10 km. The library can offer this target group a few bicycles that contains many of the car's advantages, which have the potential to encourage more people to drive less. For example, the bicycle offers opportunities as being able to ride around town with the children, making major purchases, etc..

The Bicycle Library Makes a Difference

"Too good to be true"
(Female, 26-35 years old, borrowed a racing bike)

The body experience the users gets from borrowing a bicycle from the bicycle library puts them in a better position to assess which bicycle is best suited for their everyday needs. In this way, prepares the user to make better decisions on which bicycle is right for them.

Often there is great ignorance associated with what more advanced bicycle types can offer the user. The cycles are often more expensive to invest in than the ordinary bicycle. This means in practice many bicycle types are normally inaccessible. By making such cycles available, the bicycle library removes much of the ignorance and many of the uncertainties and prejudices that are related to these cycle types. The result is that more than half of users are looking to buy a similar bicycle as the borrowed one. Moreover the bicycles in the library motivate more people to change their mobility habits and cycling more often and longer distances. The fact that the bicycles also differ both in their design and function appeals to users, as they are very curious to try the more advanced cycles.

A bicycle library can thus make a difference and contribute to a more sustainable transportation as the ability to test the bicycle in the everyday can get people to choose it. We in Bicycle Innovation Lab have close contacts with several of the bicycle library users, and follow their journey to find the cycle that best suits their everyday needs. Their experiences are important to tell so that more people can hear about the bicycle library and the opportunities offered by bicycles in the library. We have therefore made a small video collection, where a few users talk about their experiences in bicycle library and what effect it has had on their transport. See them here:

Johnny’s electric bicycle
Søren’s electric-assist Long John
Anne Dorte’s Folding Bicycle

Some facts about the study:

The bicycle library is a part of Bicycle Innovation Lab and is located in Amager. Here it is possible to lend a very wide variety of cycles for either 3 or 4 days at a time. All the users of cycles in the bicycle library fill out a questionnaire when the cycle is returned. This study is based on 238 responses submitted in the questionnaire during the period November 2011 to November 2012 
In the Workshop Space you can maintain and reapir your bike.
Lectures, debates, workshops, film nights and much more.
We have designed a bcycle course for schools together with Furesø Municipality.
Talks in 2017 about bicycles and the solutions to congestion problems.
Rent our international travelling exhibition to start a debate on cyclism and sustainability.
Become a member and get access to the Bicycle Library and our other activities.