Green Cities

What’s Holding Back Bike-Share?

Bike-sharing programs have been touted internationally as a way to ease the problems urban areas are experiencing. Advocates have claimed that these programs decrease traffic congestion and CO2 emissions while increasing riders health and their connection to the city. However, an article published last month by Miriam Ricci in Research in Transportation Business and Management. Ricci saw a lack of data to back up some of the suspected benefits of bike-share programs.

There is a lack of data on all fronts, which is holding back improvements to bike-share systems. Little data on CO2 emissions prevented by bike-sharing exists, and as Ricci points out, the rebalancing schemes the many programs have made them carbon neutral or even put them in the red. Without better data on where these systems are failing, and what the real benefits are.

People are beginning to notice this lack of data and are taking it into their own hands. Companies such as Ford Motor Company are starting programs to see how bicycles interact in cities by placing small trackers on bike frames. Likewise, the strengths of bike-share programs need to be emphasized instead of using claims that may not be true. Ricci found that many claims bike-share advocates have made were, in fact, true. Programs increase economic development near bike-share locations, as was the case in Washington DC. To take bike-sharing into its next steps, we need to gather more data, use it correctly and substantiate our claims to redefine urban transportation. We are off to a good start, but we need to keep the momentum rolling.

William Reckly, Intern