Posted on September 27, 2011 10:37 AM
An article published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) looks at the health impact of Barcelona’s public bicycle sharing initiative, Bicing. Launched in 2007, by August 2009 Bicing had 182,062 subscribers, representing 11 percent of Barcelona's municipal population. The average distance traveled by a Bicing subscriber on a working day was 3.29 km (approximately 2 miles), taking an average of 14 minutes.
The study estimates the risks and benefits to health of travel by bicycle, using a bicycle sharing scheme, compared with travel by car in an urban environment. While using a Bicing bicycle for transportation did very slightly increase the chance of death from road traffic incidents and from air pollution, this was completely offset by the large health benefit resulting from the physical activity inherent in cycling. Overall, the benefit to risk ratio was 77, with an estimated 12.28 lives saved each year through the use of the Bicing program. In addition, the authors estimate that annual carbon dioxide emissions in Barcelona have been reduced by approximately nine million kg through the implementation of Bicing.
The authors conclude that the health benefits for users of public bicycle sharing initiatives such as Bicing in Barcelona far outweigh the risks and contribute significantly to a reduction of carbon dioxide emissions in the city.
See a related Chicago Tribune story about the City of Chicago's bike-sharing plans. The CMAP Weekly Update from September 23 has more information.