20 April 2018

Bike Share Programs Save Money--And Lives

I suspect most readers of this blog believe that bike-share programs are beneficial, not only to the people who use them, but for the communities in which those programs are based.

Now a study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (IS Global) confirms what we believe--with empirical data.  IS Global studied the twelve largest bike share programs in Europe.  The programs were spread across six different countries (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Spain) and each has more than 2000 share units.  Two, in Barcelona and Milan, combine mechanical with electric bikes; Madrid's includes only electrical bike.  The other nine share only mechanical bicycles.

The IS Global researchers analyzed both the health benefits and risks of substituting  trips on  share bikes for car trips.  They used data from transport and health surveys, as well as registers of pollution and traffic accidents to determine the number of deaths due to lack of physical activity, traffic accidents and air pollution exposure.

The researchers could say with certainty that the use of shared bicycles by people who previously used their cars spares five lives and saves 18 million Euros a year.  If all public bike trips were made by people who previously drove, those numbers rise to 73 lives and 226 million Euros.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Paris, with the largest share system in Europe, saw the greatest benefit to public health.  But even Madrid's all-electric system could be credited with better public-health outcomes, though the improvements were not as great as in cities where people pedaled their shared bikes: Madrilenos sucked put out and sucked in less pollution, but didn't get the exercise one gets on mechanical bicycles.

Although these results are encouraging, IS Global researcher and study coordinator David Rojas believes that cities could do more. "The real benefits could be even greater if the local authorities worked to increase the number of bicycle trips per day, ensure traffic safety and improve air quality, " he says.

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