Today’s Solutions: September 27, 2021

In the past decade, bike-sharing systems have exploded in popularity across America. Whereas there were only four US cities with a bike-sharing system in 2010, over 50 cities had a bike-share system by 2016.

The often brightly colored bikes with whimsical company names promise city dwellers an easy way to get from Point A to Point B, but according to a new study, they’re not just for casual rides. The new study from the University of Washington studies US cities with and without bike-share systems and found that cities that implemented bike-share systems tend to see an increase in the number of people commuting to work by bike. In fact, bike commuting increased 20% in cities that introduced a bike share system—and that was before the COVID-19 pandemic. Imagine how that might increase as people look for ways to get to work while maintaining social distance.

Assistant professor Dafeng Xu conducted the study by sorting through nine years of demographic and commute statistics from the American Community Survey, a detailed, annual report from the Census Bureau. He then examined bike-share company data (through the National Association of City Transportation Officials) from 38 cities with systems, focusing on trips logged during morning and afternoon rush hours. Comparing the number, location, and time of work-related bike commutes from Census data against company records of trips logged, both before and after the launch of bike shares, allowed Xu to estimate the use of bike shares for commute trips.

He found that in both cities with and without bike-share opportunities, the rate of bike commuting increased, while car commuting decreased, from 2008-2016. However, the rate of bike commuting—and the use of public transportation—was significantly greater in bike-share cities. The conclusive data should give cities without a bike-share program more encouragement to create 

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