how to make an app like citi bike

The name Citi Bike is quite the rage across the metropolis of New York while making inroads in other regions. It is the first and largest bike-sharing service in North America. On-demand bike sharing is a relatively new idea, but it’s proving to be very popular with city dwellers, who can use an app to instantly rent and return a bicycle/ e-Bike anywhere in the city. So if you are wondering how to make an app like Citi Bike, then you must read on to know more!

A privately-owned public e-bike and bicycle sharing system, Citi Bike serves almost the entirety of New York City. Motivate operated it until September 30, 2018, and it drew its name from its sponsor, Citigroup. Subsequently, Lyft purchased the popular service and implemented its technology to operate the entire fleet of e-bikes, bicycles, and stations.

App Name:  Citi Bike
Parent Company:  Lyft
Founded In: May 2013 (New York City, USA)
Current CEO: Logan Green (Lyft)
Industry:  e-bike sharing
App Downloads: 500,000+
App Size: 35 MB
Number Of Operational Bikes: 25,000+
Top Competitors: Spinlister, Zagster, Motivate International

Technology Behind e-Bikes- IoT, BLE, and Paddle-assisted e-bikes!

It is possible to create a smart bike fleet with smart lock technology from scratch. The tech allows users to locate bikes, unlock them, track their rides, and share the same with others. Smart locks will be everywhere soon with the scorching pace of IoT (Internet Of Things) adoption!  

Bluetooth Low Energy (or BLE) enables smart locks that connect with the user’s phone. The e-bike sharing application can implement a keypad combination or a key or a combination of both. 

Users can unlock the bike using the right combination/key from the master app to open the device.

BLE can also be integrated with GPS, which enables the smart lock to unlock by detecting the user’s proximity to the e-bike. This leads to a hassle-free experience where the users don’t have to type in a password/pattern.

If we look at Citi Bike, its e-bikes come with pedal-assist technology, which kicks in when users start riding automatically. The motor kicks in when the user pedals, and things are pretty simple with a single gear!

How To Develop An e-bike app Like Citi Bike In Simple Steps!

Developing a successful e-bike sharing app requires a thorough understanding of how such apps work, as well as their core features. The app should not only be reliable but also easy to use. It will be used by people of different genres – from tourists visiting your city to local residents who want an alternative means of transportation and many more.

Here are the essential steps for bike rental app development.

1. Define Your App Features

The first step is to research and analyze the market, this will help you get familiar with the e-bike industry, including the technologies involved and specific requirements of your app. Once you have analyzed the market, it is time to check the Citi Bike app itself and its features.  

To stand out in the segment, you must bring something unique to the table. You can commence with determining one key feature that differentiates your app from others in the same category. It can be a unique way by which people can rent bikes using the app or an X-factor feature that will compel bike-lovers to try your app. 

best citi bike features

Main Features At A Glimpse:

  • Registration
  • Code verification
  • Payment method integration
  • Search Bar
  • QR Scanner
  • Option To Set Locations For Home/Work 
  • Bike/Public Transit Mode
  • Profile (Ride Plans, Ride History, Payment, Rewards, Help, Settings)

Let’s take a look at the in-app features of Citi Bike in detail!

It starts with a simple registration that asks for the users’ numbers once they download the application. Code verification is done for the number. Next, the users need to enter their names and register with a valid email.

how to register in citi bike

The next screen heads straight to help the users add a payment method (Paypal, Online Banking, Credit/Debit Card). 

It asks the users to share their preferred pronouns that later get shared with the drivers/other riders. This might look like an irrelevant feature but it displays compassion for the user’s sentiments and improves the ESG score.

citi bike payments

Before a user can start using the application, the last step is to agree to the T&Cs.

The primary app section shows a map with a Search Bar (Get Directions) at the top. Regular users can select a location as their Home and one for Work. It also displays a QR Scanner and the option to Ride A Bike. 

Users can toggle between Bike & Public Transit sections from the bottom.

There is a Profile button just beside the Search Bar. It allows the users to view their profile-related information such as Ride Plans, Ride History, Payment, Rewards, Help, and Settings.

user profile in citi bike

A dedicated Help button on the main screen is also there to swiftly redirect the users to the help section.

citi bike help

2. Selecting The Right Tech Stack

Aside from hiring the best development team, it’s also important to have a solid tech stack in place so that the app runs smoothly and without any glitches. Take a look at the technology stack needed to create a bike-rental app.

Push notifications Twilio and
Cloud environment AWS, Google, and Azure
Database MongoDB, Cassandra, PostgreSQL, and MailChimp Integration
Mobile platforms Android and iOS
Voice, SMS, and phone verification Nexmo and Twilio
Real-time analytics Cisco, Spark, Hadoop, IBM, and Big Data
Payments PayPal, Braintree, Stripe, e-Wallets

It’s good practice to screen a few app development companies to compare their approach. Eventually, you will find the best possible solution at the best price.

3. Designing The UI/UX Of The App

Well, here comes the most important part after the features! An application will get traction only when it has a fast and wonderful User Interface. By including the best UI/UX experts in the development team, you can provide wings to your application! The essential functionality buttons should be re-organized more conveniently for the users.

For instance, if you check out CitiBike, it is great, but still has room for improvement. The sign-up page doesn’t have social media integration and the primary app section can be made more interactive.

A smooth user experience increases adoption in a competitive market. The little moments of delight provided in the interaction improves the brand value of the app.

As you read about how to make an app like Citi Bike, you must know that a smooth interface that fulfills its purpose, makes for a great app. If a user can’t figure out how to use your app within seconds, it’s likely that he’ll delete it—or even worse, leave negative reviews.

4. App Development

Well, the stage is now set to begin the app development. As per Scott Logic, the smaller the application file, the more preferable it will be to the users. That should be your motto, and a team of excellent frontend and backend developers can bring the best with the least MBs!

The front-end developers will be responsible for bringing to life all the above-mentioned features in tandem with the UI/UX designers. The backend developers will ensure that the business side of things goes on smoothly. The required APIs must be integrated and social media integrations are a must.

Once the prototype application is ready, the best way to move forward is to launch it for feedback.

5. Launching A Beta Version Of The App

Create a prototype and test it with users. This will help you define your functional requirements more accurately.

Beta testing is the process of using a product before it’s available to the general public. Companies run beta tests to uncover bugs, get customer feedback and make the product more user-friendly. There are two main types of beta testing: internal and external testing.

The first stage of beta-testing is internal testing. Often, companies will develop a product internally, then hand it off to their employees to test it out. This allows the company to identify any issues as early as possible. 

External beta-testing is when a company releases a product to the general public for testing purposes. Before releasing an app in the app store, companies will often run an external beta test with several hundred users to find out what needs improvement and receive feedback.

6. Deployment 

How to make an app like Citi Bike? Well, now you know! And, the app is ready to go live. All you need to do is to create a buzz and release the application with as much fanfare as possible. 

7. Marketing

It’s time to market the app. The entire app development process can go to waste if the app fails to get traction on platforms like Google Play and App Store. 

Here are some ideas for how to promote the app and make it a major hit:

  • It should be promoted on your website,
  • Sending newsletters for the app is a good idea,
  • You should enlist the help of social media influencers,
  • Guest blogging can be done promote the app, and
  • Social media advertising.

beat version launch citi bike

Bonus Step: App Maintenance & Updates!

Post-launch maintenance is an important part of the app development process, and it does not end with the launch. There are a few things that you should do to ensure that your app keeps up with its competitors and stays on top of the charts in the long term.

The most common mistake is failing to provide updates and support for your app. 

The other thing you have to consider when thinking about post-launch maintenance is adding new features. While adding new features can be difficult, it will help you keep your users interested in your app and improve the chances of them coming back for more.

Types Of Bikes Deployed By Citi Bike

If you look at the Citi Bike fleet, it has deployed two types of bikes:

1. The Classics

The classic bikes do not cost the bikers any extra unless they keep them out for longer than 30-45 minutes (based on membership). While some classic bikes are the 3-speed variant, the others have a continuously variable transmission or CVT

2. Electric Bikes or e-bikes 

They have fixed gears with a sizable black downtube battery. They have a pedal-assist for up to 18mph, no gear shifter, and a large flat basket.

As per the Citi Bike official source, it currently operates a fleet of 20000+ bikes, with 4000 of them being e-bikes!

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How Does Citi Bike Work (For The Users)?

This is how Citi Bike works for the users:

1. Unlocking The Bike

The user needs the Citi Bike/Lyft app to unlock the bike.

2. Travel

Upon unlocking, the user can travel from one place to another(within the limits of Citi Bike service).

3. Pay

The users are charged a price based on the membership and usage(discussed in the Business Model section above).

4. Docking The Bike

The bikes can be parked at any Citi Bike station after usage.

Well, that’s pretty much it!

how does citi bike work

Cost Of Developing An e-bike App

Developing an e-bike sharing app can turn out to be a smart investment option for startups. But how much will an app like Citi Bike cost? 

With the most basic features & functionalities, the app development cost starts from $8000. However, with each additional feature and intricate functionalities, the figure can shoot higher. The cost depends on multiple factors such as:

  • The number of development hours,
  • Tech-stack
  • Hosting solutions
  • The nation of the development company, and
  • The team size & their expertise of app development.

Nevertheless, the price structure may vary depending on the features that are customized.

Business Model Of Citi Bike In Brief

Citi Bike comes with a sound business model and shows consistent growth. If you are looking to jump into this domain, here is a glimpse for you.

  • There’s a yearly membership which starts from $15/month. 
  • Users can also opt for a single ride option @$3.50 a trip, a day pass @$15. 
  • Citi Bike follows a different approach in Miami, where it offers hourly rates ranging from $7 per hour to $18 for a 4-hour haul.

Also Read: How To Develop Apps Using Subscription Model?

citi bike business model

In November 2021, Citi Bike recorded net revenue of $6,213,932.11 and an exceptionally low 0.56 customer service calls per 100 rides (read the full monthly reports here). The numbers validate the successful model with an impressive growth rate. 

The figures are quite astonishing, given that Citi Bike serves just the New York City boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens, along with some turfs of Jerseys. This depicts just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine what you can do if you roll out an e-bike sharing app on a nationwide scale! 

If you are looking to have a decent beginning, Central Park can be the ideal place to launch the pilot project for your application. The lush 843-acre nature patch in the center of Manhattan sees heavy footfall from tourists & locals year-round. This creates a commutation demand. An e-bike app can have a dream debut here, with the green movement gaining traction.

Apps like Citi Bike will surely mushroom in the near future, given its immense acceptance among people from all walks of life. However, you can still make the most of a first-mover’s advantage!

Which Countries Have The Maximum Share In The Global e-bike Market?

As the need for urban transportation grew, so did the number of vehicles on the road, resulting in spiraling traffic jams and high pollution levels. To address the aforementioned concerns, the world is looking for greener options. The countries having the maximum share in the global e-bike market are: Asia-Pacific, North America, and Europe. They are widely adopting bike-sharing programs.


1. How Can You Ensure The Safety & Security Of The App?

You can ensure the safety of your application by imbibing innovative security features in your application. The e-bike app development team that you choose must deploy the highest standard testing techniques during the development phase. 

There should be absolutely ZERO leakage, and it is ensured by encryption. File-level encryptions & avoidance of local storage of sensitive data can go a long way to secure your app data. Also, ensure the e-bike app code is updatable, portable, and open to modifications.

Encrypted connections are also a great option for additional protection like SSL, VPN, or TLS.

2. How Much Does It Cost To Develop A Bike-sharing Application?

In a single sentence, it all depends on the features and UI/UX. If you have a different approach from the prevalent bike-sharing applications having all the sophisticated features, the development cost can notch higher.

It also depends on the geography you are targeting for the app rollout. For instance, if you enter a region where there is no competitor, you can do away with a basic application with the most important features. However, if you are looking to enter a market with heavy competition, such as New York, you need to develop a top-notch application that will raise the cost of development.

3. How To Monetize Your Ride-Sharing App?

There are many ways to monetize your e-bike rental app. Apart from the business model that you put in place, in-app advertisements (audio, video, banners) can be great ways to monetize your application. 

Final Thoughts!

If you were looking for how to make an app like Citi Bike , this blog must have opened your eyes on every front by now! Before we close this blog, it is important for you to know that your application is only as good as the app development team you deploy and your unique idea. If you have further questions or you are seeking a more in-depth understanding of e-Bike app development, feel free to contact our experts today! 

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