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New Evidence That Bikeshare Programs Can Promote Physical Activity

Bike share docking station in Philadelphia

October 11, 2022

Guest Post by: Amy Auchincloss, PhD, MPH

Bikeshare programs allow users to check-out a bike at a station and return the bike to any station within the bikeshare network. A phone app identifies where bikeshare stations are located and how many bicycles are available. Bikeshare members can use the program for an unlimited number of rides per month. When traveling within a city’s bikeshare service area, bikeshare members have access one of the cheapest and fastest ways to get from place to place.

More than one thousand bikeshare programs exist worldwide. Cities have launched bikeshare programs in large part because of their role in alleviating transit congestion and extending the transportation network to areas that are not well-serviced by bus/rail. It is also thought that bikeshare may benefit members’ physical activity levels.

However, no evaluations have assessed within-person changes in overall physical activity in response to joining bikeshare, leaving unanswered key questions related to the health enhancing potential of bikeshare programs.

The City of Philadelphia's bike sharing program, Indego, launched in 2015. The program has grown to a service area of approximately twenty square kilometers (8 square miles), with over 1500 bicycles docked at over 165 stations. Our team at the Drexel Urban Health Collaborative at the Dornsife School of Public Health enrolled a cohort of 1031 new bikeshare members and examined whether physical activity increased 12 months after joining bikeshare. The bikeshare program in Philadelphia was specifically designed with an equity focus; thus, we also assessed whether the program’s benefit was equitably distributed across socio-economic groups and racial and ethnic groups.

Overall, we found that bikeshare increased cycling, slightly increased moderate and vigorous physical activity, and showed potential for activating inactive adults. Bikeshare’s effects on within-person change in physical activity were similar for participants of different socio-economic groups and racial and ethnic groups.

Read the full article: Changes in physical activity after joining a bikeshare program: a cohort of new bikeshare users.