Bike share schemes are very popular with cyclists and non-cyclists alike, however they are not very effective at improving health, reducing CO2 emissions, lessening road congestion or promoting transport equity, according to a new study presented today at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual International Conference, at Cardiff University.
Geographer Dr Cyrille Médard de Chardon, from the University of Hull, analysed an abundance of previous research and data on bike sharing schemes and found that their widely promoted positive outcomes typically go unrealised, and are contradictory. Globally, the schemes are mainly used by healthy, wealthy, young white men and improvements to accessibility intended by the schemes have not materialised.
In London’s Chancery Lane for example, bike docking stations frequently become empty and are topped up throughout the day by vans that contribute to pollution. The total amount of carbon produced from the vans is not offset by the amount saved from use of the bike share scheme.
Most bike share scheme bicycles complete less than two trips per day, which prompts the question of whether the schemes are the best use of public funding for cycling.
In addition, provision of bikes is highest in city centres and tails off the further out of town one travels, which is where those on lower incomes are most likely to live. Therefore bike share schemes often result in facilitating transportation for the wealthier in society.
When the bike share scheme was launched in London in 2010, money was taken away from funding cycling infrastructure and instead put into bike sharing, due to its public popularity. While also being an easy and popular initiative, it was less contested than proven redistributive policies such as more cycle lanes that increase biking and create more concrete environmental and social benefits.
Médard de Chardon said:
“In reality, bike sharing schemes are a false solution. They look sophisticated and are technologically cool, but they don’t create much useful or progressive change.
It’s worrying that we are getting bike share schemes instead of concrete improvements to transport infrastructure.”
Médard de Chardon added that the Dutch and the Danish are the highest achievers when it comes to cycling equality. Transport and city planners more effectively redistribute public space for better cycling infrastructure, which is leading to a more sustainable bike culture.
He recommends that other cities follow suit and look to practical and straightforward solutions instead of focusing solely on technology and innovation. These could be safer, connected and widespread cycle lanes, safe and secure bicycle parking and showers in workplaces which would all contribute to a more positive cycling culture.
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2. Cyrille Medard de Chardon’s presentation is taking place on Friday 31 August at the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual International Conference at Cardiff University. The conference is being held from August 28 – 31. It is the largest geography conference in Europe, with more than 360 sessions and 1,300 papers being presented. Full details on the RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2018 can be found at https://www.rgs.org/research/annual-international-conference/
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