When bike-sharing services open in cities, more people start to commute by bicycle and take public transit, new research shows.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, bike commuting had increased by 20 percent in cities where bike-share systems were introduced, according to study author Dafeng Xu, assistant professor of public policy and governance at the University of Washington in Seattle.
His analysis of 38 U.S. cities found increased commuting by bike and decreased commuting by car between 2008 and 2016 -- but the rate of bike commuting and public transportation use was greater in bike-share cities.
In 2008, about 66 percent of commuters drove to work, about 1 percent biked and 22 percent used transit in bike-share cities. In 2016, rates were 59 percent for driving to work, 1.7 percent for bike commuting and 26 percent for transit use.
In cities without bike-share, 88 percent drove to work in 2008, fewer than 1 percent biked and 4 percent used transit. By 2016, car commuting had slipped to 83 percent, 1 percent were biking and 6 percent used public transit.
In general, cities with larger bike-share systems had larger increases in bicycle commuting, according to Xu.
"This study shows that bike-share systems can drive a population to commute by bike," said Xu, whose findings were recently published in the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management.
Nationwide, 0.6 percent of commuters bike to work, according to an American Community Survey report released in 2017.
Xu said the numbers could grow if communities and bike-share companies take steps to make bike commuting more appealing. Those steps could include adding bike lanes to city streets, expanding programs to outlying communities or increasing the time for one rental.
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