Planners, public health officials, and others have long promoted active travel (walking or biking for transportation) as one way to increase daily physical activity, reduce automobile dependence, and improve air quality. Bike share systems, which are now increasingly popular in cities around the world, may potentially increase active transportation by allowing for spontaneous bike trips and by giving people with no personal bikes access to bikes.
To better explore the potential of bike sharing systems to increase active travel, and thus improve health, air quality, and congestion researchers at the Institute for Sensible Transport, in Melbourne, Australia, collected log data (data of every trip taken in the system) from five bike sharing systems for all of 2012. These five bike sharing systems are in Melbourne, Australia, Washington DC, London, United Kingdom, and Minneapolis, Minnesota. The research team also conducted surveys in each of the five cities to ascertain mode substitution between bike sharing and other transport modes like walking, driving, riding public transport etc. They then used these data to develop a series of equations to estimate the total change in active travel minutes from the introduction of bike share systems.
- On average, 60 percent of bike share trips replaced sedentary modes of transport such as automobile usage. Findings ranged from 42 percent in Minneapolis to 67 percent in Brisbane.
- Active travel increases heavily depends on what mode bike sharing replace. If biking replaces walking there is generally a net loss of active transportation minutes, but if bike sharing replaces automobile travel there is generally a net gain.
- In all cities bike share systems increased active travel time on the transportation network.
- Minneapolis had the lowest estimated increase in active travel activity at 1.4 million minutes increase and London has the most at 74.37 million minutes increase.