Benefits of Bike Sharing in Cities

Long Beach's bike sharing program provides easy transportation throughout the downtown area.

If you travel to most major U.S. cities today, chances are that you will see colorful bikes parked all around the city. This is thanks to the rise of bike-sharing programs around the world.

Bike sharing provides both locals and tourists an easy, low-cost, efficient means of transportation around cities. Users are able to pick up bicycles around the city from multiple bike stations.

Modern US bike sharing programs began in 2010 when Washington DC launched Capital Bikeshare, followed by Minneapolis and Denver later that year. As of 2016, there are over 42,000 bikes available throughout bike-share programs around the country.

There a number of obvious benefits to taking advantage of these programs. One of the biggest and most personal benefits to bike sharing is the overall improved health that comes with a heart-pumping bike ride. According to the US government’s official health website, adults are recommended to have at least 150 minutes of moderately intense physical activity each week. Utilizing a bike in a bike share program a few times a week can easily fulfill this need.

Los Angeles’ Metro Bikes have reduced over 700,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions.

Image courtesy of @longbeachbikes.

Image courtesy of @chelseaenglehart.

While the health benefits of bike sharing are great, what’s really appealing to cities are the economic benefits these programs provide.

In multiple studies, researchers found that locals who roamed cities by bike generally spent more money in a week compared to those that went by car. Austin, Texas’ bicycle program is expected to bring in $96,000-$274,000 in extra income by the year 2020. In the East Village of New York City, drivers account for less than 4 percent of spending in the area, and pedestrians and cyclists visit more and spend more than people using other forms of transit.

The low cost of bike sharing is also appealing to locals and tourists alike. Twenty four percent of bike sharing programs around the country have an income-based discount program. This means that people can drive less and save money on gas and parking in cities as well.

Of course, less driving also means less pollution for the environment. Los Angeles’ Metro Bikes have reduced over 700,000 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions. As architects and designers, we believe in equipping cities to be sustainable as well as engaging with the communities around them.

There are always downsides to every benefit. Bike sharing is no different. Two of the biggest concerns with bike sharing programs are the potential for accidents and the cost to operate a program with smart bikes and docks in any given city. Most bike sharing programs in the US do not include helmets due to cost and hygienic reasons, and bike sharing programs cost thousands of dollars to start.

However, despite these concerns, there has only been 1 bike related death in a bike sharing program, and cities that are strategic with the location of their bike stations and subsidies are able to pass by in terms of cost and ridership.

Bike sharing provides both locals and tourists an easy, low-cost, efficient means of transportation around cities.

Bike sharing is striving to become a valid, reliable, and easy form of public transportation in cities not just in the US, but around the world. People are starting to get out of their cars and onto these bikes. If done right, we can have save money and have a healthier community.

As a firm, we ourselves are huge proponents of this movement and even provide our employees with memberships to our local bike sharing program to encourage more physical activity throughout the week. We are also investing in the local community around us to help create the infrastructure necessary to make bike sharing safer and more accessible. Repurposing an entire city block in the heart of downtown Long Beach will provide safer streets, more bike lanes, and an improved environment. It is more than just improving our overall health, but it is also about improving the overall wellbeing of our community.