A study of London’s bike sharing system finds net safety and health benefits.

Comprehensive modeling effort finds widespread health benefits from bike sharing systems in London at the population level.


Summary Information

Bike sharing systems, which use several ITS technologies such as electronic fare payment, allow users to rent a bicycle for a short period of time from an automated kiosk. These systems are now widespread in most major cities around the world. These systems may lead to a number of benefits including reduce congestion, increased active transportation behavior, better air quality, and overall improved urban quality of life.

However, researchers have not seriously assessed the net safety and health benefits of these bike sharing systems. While increased cycling will likely lead to better health outcomes there is concern that increased cycling may also result in more deadly bike crashes and more exposure to vehicle exhaust for cyclists.


To better understand the net safety and health benefits of bike sharing systems a research team, led by Cambridge University, gathered data from London’s bike sharing system. Specifically, Transport for London, the bike sharing system’s operator, provide the research team usage data for all bike trips made between June 30, 2010 and March 31, 2012. Transport for London also provided the team with demographic data, obtained from intercept surveys, of bike sharing users. These surveys also asked users what mode they would have used instead of bike sharing and asked users how long their trips are.

Using these data sets the team then constructed a series of models to estimate net health and safety benefits of bike sharing. Researchers developed two sets of models, one in which in the bike sharing system does not exist and one in which it does exist. Each model assessed disability adjusted life years gained or lost, at the population level, from physical activity, air pollution exposure, and cycling accidents.


Accounting for air pollution exposure, cycling crashes, and physical activity bike sharing systems may decrease population-level disease burden by 55 disability adjusted life years in London. This suggests that overall bike sharing systems improve safety and health despite the risks.

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Health effects of the London bicycle sharing system: health impact modelling study

Author: Woodcock, James; Marko Tainio; James Cheshire; Oliver O’Brien; and Anna Goodman

Published By: BMJ Publishing Group

Source Date: 02/12/2014

Other Reference Number: 348:g425



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Benefit ID: 2020-01467