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Effect of a large-scale, public bicycle-sharing program on urban health: A natural experiment in Mexico City

Image of bike share bicycles in Mexico City

Project Summary

In large cities throughout the world, physical inactivity, a risk factor for many chronic diseases, is increasingly common. Policies and interventions to promote active transport are one of the ways that cities promote physical activity. In Mexico City, the government implemented the Ecobici program in 2010, a large-scale bikeshare. However, programs like this have rarely been evaluated in Latin American settings. Despite their vast popularity at a global scale and rapid expansion, rigorous studies examining both the health benefits and risks of bike-share programs and bicycling for transportation in megacities are lacking. Mexico City provides a unique opportunity to study and understand the viability of bicycle sharing programs in one of the most complex urban settings in the developing world.

Researchers at the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico (INSP) and Washington University in St. Louis will conduct a two-year study to measure the effect of Ecobici on physical activity and traffic injuries. The study takes advantage of a natural experiment created by the planned expansion of Ecobici to evaluate the impact of the program on physical activity and travel-related injuries. The study will recruit a sample of individuals who live or work in areas affected by the expansion and contrast them with a matched sample of individuals recruited from other areas.  Data will be collected via questionnaires and via accelerometry and GPS data for a subsample. 

Findings will shed light on how cities can use infrastructure improvements like bikeshares to better promote and support active transportation and physical activity.   

Research Team

Alejandra Jáuregui, Centro de Investigación en Nutrición y Salud, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública
Catalina Medina, Centro de Investigación en Nutrición y Salud, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública
Deborah Salvo,  Washington University in St. Louis (primary appointment) & Centro de Investigación en Nutrición y Salud, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública (adjunct appointment)
Mishel Unar, Centro de Investigación en Nutrición y Salud, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública
Tonatiuh Barrientos, Centro de Investigación en Nutrición y Salud, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública
Simón Barquera,  Centro de Investigación en Nutrición y Salud, Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública


The SALURBAL (Salud Urbana en América Latina, or “Urban Health in Latin America”) project is implementing this evaluation with support from the Wellcome Trust [205177/Z/16/Z].