Study: Bike share saves lives

BMJ.com (nee the British Medical Journal) published a study today showing that a bike share program in Barcelona, Spain saves human lives while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The benefits from increased physical activity far outweight the risks from increased exposure to traffic and air pollutants.

Researchers in Barcelona compared the risks and benefits of bicycle travel using Barcelona’s Bicing bike share with travel by car in an urban environment. 11% of Barcelona’s residents subscribe to Bicing, with regular users biking an average of 3.29 kilometers in 14 minutes each work day.


Cycling in Barcelona

The study finds the mortality rate for bike share users increases by 0.03 from crashes and 0.13 from increased exposure to air pollution. The increased physical activity, however, results in 12.46 fewer deaths in this population study.

Bicing has been highly successful in terms of number of subscribers and led to a large increase in trips on bicycles. A previous study showed bike promotion programs generally led to an average 3% increase in the prevalence of cycling in the population. Bicing so far has increased the number of cycling trips by 30%. Eleven per cent of the population in Barcelona subscribes to Bicing, although only 1.7% of the population are regular users.

The researchers conclude that low cost public bicycle sharing systems aimed at encouraging commuters to cycle are worth implementing in other cities, not only for the public health benefits but also for potential co-benefits such as a reduction in air pollution and greenhouse gases. Spain and the United States have roughly equivalent traffic fatality rates, so these conclusions may also apply to American cities.

BMJ is a peer reviewed medical journal published by the British Medical Assocation and advocates evidence based medicine. Because BMJ is an open access journal, the complete text of the study is available online. Which rocks.

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Barcelona Bicing photo CC BY-ND 2.0 by Andrew Larsen.

5 Comments

  • Andy
    August 5, 2011 - 4:59 pm | Permalink

    I wish some of these systems would try a variety of bikes. If I lived in a city with a bikeshare, I’d probably be willing to pay double for a more typical type of bike if that meant that it was reliable and suitable for a 20 mile trip. Just like how most carsharing programs have a fleet mostly of small cars, but usually have at least a van and a pickup truck in there to capture more uses and users. Give me a bike rack with 8 3-speed bikes, 1 commuter upright style of bike, and a cargo bike and I’d sign up faster than you can fly off a bike with its wheel stuck in a trolley track! :D

  • August 5, 2011 - 5:58 pm | Permalink

    i test rode the BIXI bikes when the VTA had a demo last year and they are pretty solid an not a bad ride at all.
    they also had integrated racks and a front basket. room for lots of cargo. I think i would sign up just for the convenience factor of being able to have a bike that i can just grab and use without having to worry about it getting stolen or locking it up.

  • August 5, 2011 - 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Nice comparison :-)  I happen to be picking at the scabs from my elbow from that right now, as a matter of fact.

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