Bike share programs increase access to and use of bicycles by deploying bicycle docking stations throughout a city, enabling individuals to make one way trips by bicycle for minimal fees. Such interventions can increase cycling but also walking and transit use, as they help provide efficient connections to and from transit networks, and increase time competitiveness of sustainable modes compared with personal motor vehicles. The systems use adjustable “city-style” bicycles, which are easy to ride for people of all abilities. Since the launch of the pioneer program in Lyon in 2005, over 100 public bike share systems have been implemented internationally.
Public bike share programs remove certain barriers related to bicycle ownership, including concern for theft or vandalism, lack of parking or storage, and maintenance requirements. The programs are becoming common in urban centres, and increasingly massive in scope. The largest in the world is in Hangzhou, China where over 240,000 trips are made daily on the 50,000 public bike share bicycles, and there are plans for expansion to 175,000 bicycles by 2020.
Canada is joining this global trend: the first public bike share began in Montreal in 2009 (now with 5000 bicycles), and programs have been launched in Ottawa (100 bicycles) and Toronto (1000 bicycles).
Vancouver bike share
The City of Vancouver is currently negotiating a public bike share program with about 1500 bikes available at about 125 stations in the downtown and Kitsilano areas. They expect the program will be launched in 2015 (the year seems to be ever-shifting).
A unique aspect of a Vancouver bike share program is that all users would be required to wear helmets since British Columbia is one of 4 Canadian provinces with all-ages helmet legislation. The other Canadian bike share systems are in provinces (Quebec and Ontario) that do not legislate helmet use for adults. Helmet legislation has been debated as a barrier to uptake of cycling and is seen as a potential threat to the success of bike share programs.
We are taking advantage of the launch of the Vancouver bike share program to examine its impact on travel and health outcomes in the general population, in users of the program, and within key populations. We have the following objectives:
- to estimate the impact of public bike share on changes in physical activity and mode of transportation at a population-level
- to determine who uses the bike share program and its impact on their individual health and modes of transportation
- to characterize barriers to the adoption of the bike share program across socio-demographic groups.
The outcomes of this project will be three-fold:
- preliminary evidence on whether this public bike share program can induce a shift in travel behaviour across diverse social groups
- evidence on any positive health and transportation impacts the program may yield
- identification and evaluation of barriers to cycling uptake for users and non-users.
In an opinion survey before bike share program implementation, Vancouverites indicated that the most important factors influencing their likelihood of using the program will be a connected network of protected cycle routes and good weather. In contrast, a content analysis indicated that, in media reports, the helmet law was expected to be the leading barrier to bike share success in Vancouver.
In both the opinion survey and an observation study, we found that helmets are frequently used (on 75-80% of bicycling trips), but about 57% of cyclists reported not using helmets on at least some trips. Lack of access to a helmet and discomfort were the primary reasons for non-use.
Publications on this part of the study:
- Identifying the leaders: Applying diffusion of innovation theory to use of a public bike share system in Vancouver, BC. Therrien S, Brauer M, Fuller D, Gauvin L, Teschke K, Winters M.Transportation Research Board 2014 [article]
- Facilitators and barriers to public bike share adoption and success in a city with compulsory helmet legislation: A mixed-methods approach. Zanotto M. [SFU Thesis]