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Bringing Public Bike Share to All People


While there are now more than 535 cities worldwide with public bike sharing systems – including approximately twenty cities with systems of 100 bikes or more in the United States (US) – the existing academic literature related to bike sharing is still in its infancy. Some of the early studies suggest that public bike share has a plethora of benefits including reductions in car trips, vehicle miles traveled, gasoline consumed, and parking costs. Corresponding increases in active transportation have also been associated with better health outcomes. However, the problem that many public bike share systems face is that their users are not representative of the overall population of a city. In other words, bike share users tend to have higher incomes and be less diverse than our cities are. There are probably many social, cultural, and economic reasons behind these user trends. In terms of economics, the fact that most public bike share systems require a credit card for collateral limits the ability of these systems to bring the benefits to our more vulnerable populations. Some cities are making efforts to reduce these disparities. For instance, Boston subsidized 600 memberships and conducted outreach work and bike education in low income areas; Washington D.C. performed similar outreach and education work in lower income neighborhoods but also coordinated a program with a local bank that provided their lower income population access to a checking account; and Minneapolis was able to remove security deposits from some users. One goal of public bike share systems is to minimize the initial cost of efficient and affordable urban transportation for everyone. However, public bike share is still not widely used by more vulnerable populations. While there have been some strides in these areas, there remains a relative dearth of research and guidance as to what strategies have been effective. This research would fill this gap in the literature and produce best practices for making sure bike share is accessible to a greater percentage of the population.


This project will develop best practices for increasing the accessibility of public bike share to vulnerable populations that are underrepresented in terms of usage.

Sponsoring Committee:ABE30, Transportation Issues in Major U.S. Cities
Research Period:6 - 12 months
Research Priority:High
RNS Developer:Wesley Marshall, PhD, PE
Source Info:Committee members
Date Posted:05/27/2014
Date Modified:06/03/2014
Index Terms:Bicycle sharing programs, Benefits, Social benefits, Nonmotorized transportation, Subsidies, Operating subsidies, Education, Outreach, Boston (Massachusetts), Washington (District of Columbia),
Cosponsoring Committees: 
Pedestrians and Bicyclists
Public Transportation

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