Friday 11 December 2009

Little known about the effect of bike share on modal splits

Another article from the Fietsberaad:
"Does the introduction of bike share systems such as in Barcelona and Paris lead to a different pattern of travel and a change in the modal split ? However many signals there are this is still difficult to know for sure. That was the conclusion of Gert Brams from Belgium who analysed all the data for these systems for his post graduate thesis at the PCVO Handel in Diepenbeekalle. With his report "Take care, there comes a bike" he presented much interesting material over the introduction and use of loan bike systems in Europe, but only in one case did the numbers support the proposition that residents cycled more frequently. Barcelona is this best example. Traffic counts show a substantial growth on some cycle routes. The BICING system takes some credit for a 26% growth in cycle usage over these routes, 46% of that growth was due to BICING. Over the whole area, the cycling share has approximately doubled. Brams says that the counting figures don't give the full picture about the success of bike share systems: "Loan bikes help also to break throught he myth that in some countries no cycling culture exists." There are a number of factors that are important for success of bike share. From all the studies it is clear that 90% of rides were made for free and that is something that people setting up systems should keep in mind."

I've made clear before my suspicions about the effectiveness of bike share. At that time, Barcelona was the example I picked out as having the best chance of success. They have enough bikes for 1.8% of journeys to be made on them.

Of course, what would really make a difference would be for these cities to invest in cycling infrastructure which makes cycling into an attractive proposition. That's a more difficult thing politically in many places.

End of December update: The Fietsberaad now have their own translation.


Miguel said...

I am not sold on bike sharing either. I still cling to my belief that personal bike ownership + a great infrastructure is the way to go for a number of reasons. People should ride bikes that are sized for them and appropriate for their needs. Sharing logistics are a PITA and, no matter what the system does, you will encounter situations where there aren't any bikes available to share or, when returning there are no slots to park it. The systems rely on internal combustion, CO2-generating vehicles for statistically efficient redistribution of bikes to areas that most need it at different times of the day which is terribly ironic. The money that gets invested in this is better spent on bike paths, adaptation of roads for bike travel, etc. By encouraging bike ownership the local economy wins (bike shops, maintenance, etc.) And so much more. No more sharing mega-projects! Everybody get a bike!

Kevin Love said...

My observation in Toronto is that the implementation of the new bike share system is a boon for infrastructure. The logic seems to be "If we're going to put in all these new bikes, we need infrastructure for them to ride on. And we don't want to be embarassed by international tourists who rent the bikes and then criticise the inadequate infrastructure."

I suspect that in places like Paris, the result has been similar to the actual safety/subjective safety dichotomy. The actual percentage of mode share on Velib may be small, but it changed the culture and psychology of cycling in Paris.

David Hembrow said...

Kevin, I hope what you're saying is true. Cyclists in Paris don't seem entirely happy, as was shown in a video I featured earlier.

Oldboy in Brussels said...

Paris has much better cycle infrastructure than, lets say - London for instance (though it hasn't reached anything like the dutch one, mainlky due to the inadeuqte french cycle design guidances I believe). I also think that the main issue is with enforcement of car offenders that do not respect cycle lanes (parking at entries and exits of cycle tracks, etc). Motor cyclists are also constantly using these facilities when these are good qulity which makes the cycling experience pretty bad...
Here is for instance what was recently completed on boulevard Magenta:

The mayor of Paris didn't hesitate to take off one lane in each direction from private car, in spite of massive press campains against him and even some "transport experts" from Parisian university producing reports on how anti-economic his policy was.

Maybe, the velib is only a tiny drop in an ocean but it is a massive progress in the parisian mentalities (and 80 years of pro-car policies). Indeed, trams were already removed from parisian streets in the 1930s to make way for car traffic!

townmouse said...

I agree that infrastructure is key, but before politicians will really invest in infrastructure they need to be convinced that there are votes in it. Given the very vocal car lobby (at least in the UK), having a visible and successful bike share scheme in London (politicians won't notice one anywhere else...) might at least give them a sense that there's a 'cyclist vote' out there. More cyclists = more money for infrastructure = more cyclists = virtuous circle develops. No? Well, I can dream...

Kevin Love said...

A further reflection on Toronto psychology. In this case, the culture of deference. In other words, if the government does something, then it is "official" and everyone must give way to it and support it.

Right now, bicycles are "unofficial," since privately owned and not part of an official government scheme. This will change when the Bixi bike share programme starts up next spring. Then cycling will be "offical" and have a much stronger level of public mandate and support.

For example, a good chunk of Toronto's self-image comes from official tourism promotion. For which there is quite a large budget of over $31 million for 2010. As soon as the adverts start promoting the new bike share scheme and showing cycling in Toronto as something tourists do, then that will strongly influence the self-image of the people in Toronto as to what their city is about.

Source for budget is page 15 at:

Michael said...

Kevin, I like what you say about Bike share potentially creating a deference towards bikes which does not exist now.

I think in Australia, if we were to get it, which seems unlikely because of compulsory helmets, it could play a similar image shifting role.

Now, non riders here see cyclists as hunched speeding figures, tightly wrapped in lycra, in a world of their own. It not an image which invites either joining or supporting.

Those who are just out for a ride, and going slower, are none the less variants on that. They are leaning over, often wear some of the gear, and are on bikes with none of the functional things, like mudguards, which David talked about in our video, Talking to David.

None of this image has any hint of getting from A to B about it.

Governments like this type of bike culture because it's not demanding. It's happy on the existing roads and it goes along with the nation's sporting image.

Lastly, this culture has no problem with helmets. They are part of the look, adding to the warrior caste image.

See the cover of Australian Cyclist mag. which I've reprinted on my latest post

I plan to explore on film, people's inability to visualize themselves on a bike because, I suspect all the image space is being taken up by the dominant model.

I'll try to get them to imagine themselves by contrast on a bike share machine.


Anonymous said...

is this report / thesis available?