Research says bike share has a rosy (digital) future

CC BY 2.0 Sam Churchill SoBi

Eliot Fishman, a researcher formerly at Utrecht University and now at Australia's Institute for Sensible Transport, reviewed the English-language bike share literature and found out what makes bike share systems around the globe popular.

Published earlier this year in Transport Reviews, “Bikeshare: A Review of Recent Literature,” provides an overview of the state of research on bikeshare programs (BSPs).

Fishman put together some impressive facts on bike share's growth, including:
• Between 2004 and 2014 bike share BSPs grew from 13 systems to 855, with 54 in the U.S.
• The systems with the most bicycles are in Paris (17,902), London (9,901), the Chinese city of Changsu (5,924), and New York (5,233)
• Currently most bike share systems are “third generation,” which means they take credit card payments, have GPS tracking of bikes, and are accessed by smart phone apps to show bike availability and docking stations.
• Barcelona is the city whose residents takes the most bike share trips per day

Fishman found that bike share usage peaks along with what we consider 'rush hour' - between 7 and 9 a.m. and 4 and 6 p.m. on weekdays. This is important for bike share's future as cities become even more crowded. The top reason that users turn to bike share, according to Fishman's look at a survey of Washington DC bike sharers, is convenience: 69% of surveyed users said getting around easily and conveniently was their top motivation for using bike share.

In almost all cases studied, bike share reduces vehicle miles travelled by citizens. (The exception is London). On the downside, however, people using bike share are more likely to use it instead of either walking or taking public transport, rather than always replacing a car trip with a bike trip. This means, Fishman found, that system operators will need to do more to "encourage its use and thus maximize the societal and environmental benefits it provides."

At the same time, many cities have come to realize that creating infrastructure to endlessly accommodate the car leads to endless cars – plus gridlocked traffic, fatalities, and worse health of city dwellers.

Gilles Vesco, a politician who helped bring into reality the French bike share program in Lyon that jumpstarted the bike share revolution, believes that digital technology is facilitating a further move away from cars in cities.

Vesco said that collaborative platforms on smart phone apps will bring together different services - public transport, bike share, and car share - to allow people the convenience they crave in moving around cities.

And that, looking at Fishman's research, is exactly where bike share systems are going. The fourth generation of bike share is embodied in systems like Brad Biddle's Portland-based Open Bike Initiative And SoBi's Social Bicycles. Looking forward, Fishman said, fourth-generation bikeshare would include dockless systems and improved transit integration.

While some people argue that we've reached peak car and others predict the number of autos worldwide and how much we drive them will continue to grow, the market for bike sharing looks rosy. UK-based consultantcy Roland Berger Roland Berger says by 2020 the bike share market is expected to be worth around US$5 billion.

Research says bike share has a rosy (digital) future
A whopping 850 cities have a bike share program, conferring health and happiness benefits on city residents. A review of the research shows we'll need those benefits to keep up with city growth

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