New Study on Bikesharing Published in TRR

April 24, 2014

A detailed examination of public bikesharing programs by TSRC Co-Director Susan Shaheen and research colleagues Adam Cohen and Elliot Martin, was recently published by the Transportation Research Record, the Journal of the Transportation Research Board.

This data-rich study, “Public Bikesharing in North America, Early Operator Understanding and Emerging Trends,” examined numerous facets of more than two dozen bikesharing systems in the U.S. and Canada, ranging from types of bicycles, helmets and docking stations used to varying business models and technology employed.
Among the researchers’ most significant findings were:
  • The growth rate and interest in public bikesharing as a form of public transportation expanded notably in 2013. As of December 2013, there were 36 cities in the U.S. with IT-based systems, including six universities, for a total of 19,000 bikes and 1,900 stations, according to recent, unpublished data. 
  • Bikesharing programs embrace a wide range of business models, number of bikes and users, and approaches to carsharing, i.e. one-way and roundtrips. According to Shaheen some bikesharing services focus on promoting public health and do not charge for the use of bikes. Others are publicly subsidized or sponsor-supported initiatives that aim to provide a first- and last-mile and many-mile alternative to the private automobile.
  • Bikesharing may complement or compete with public transportation in some but not all cases. “In the four cities we studied, Toronto, Montreal, Washington, D.C., and the Twin Cities, we found that the Twin Cities had a net positive impact on transit ridership overall. This was not the case for the other three cities,” said Shaheen.
According to the researchers, further GIS analysis has revealed that when bikesharing competes with public transit it is typically in the urban core (where it can provide more transit capacity, for instance) and when it complements transit, it is often in more outlying areas, such as suburbs, acting as a first-mile/last-mile connector.
To view a recent webinar by Shaheen on bikesharing, go here.