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Bike Sharing Reduces Congestion - Study

The problem with congestion

With the easing of restrictions and the return of employees to workplaces, Dublin has experienced an increase in levels of congestion in the City Centre, particularly during rush hour. Private car usage is one of the leading causes of congestion, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions in urban areas.  

Road congestion is also bad for productivity. In European cities, ''the average citizen needs 20% extra time for each trip made’’ due to congestion, and delays caused by traffic cost an estimated €172.6 billion a year.

This begs the question of how to get more people to choose active travel and public transportation in their daily commute and leisure time. New research suggests that Bike Sharing Systems like Bleeper are reducing levels of congestion in European cities.

Private cars and trucks in a traffic jam on the road in Dublin
Early morning traffic at The Grand Canal

Bike Sharing Solution

With the rise of living costs, Bike Sharing Systems (BSSs) provide an affordable active travel alternative, enabling more people to cycle. A recent survey from CoMoUK found that 50% of users were motivated to start cycling again by the opportunity to use bike sharing. Within this cohort, ‘’a higher proportion of women compared to men (37% vs 25%) were more likely to have started cycling for the first time or after a 5+ year break.’’

Furthermore, Bike Sharing Systems incentivise users to cycle for more of their journeys, even if they already own a bicycle. For example, bike owners may opt to use Bike Sharing for one-way trips instead of a taxi. Likewise, Bike Sharing allows tourists to explore a new city at a low cost and with fewer carbon emissions than private cars.

Infographic showing person with bike helmet. The text says Bike Sharing is a tool for re-engaging cyclists. Over half of bike share users said that bike share was the catalyst to start cycling again.
Image Source: CoMoUK 2021 Bike Share Report

New Research on Bike Sharing and Congestion

On average, cities experienced a 4.14% reduction in congestion after the launching of Bike Sharing Systems, according to a recent study by Professor Valeria Bernardo. Importantly, on average, lower-income areas experienced a greater reduction in congestion than higher-income areas, suggesting that bike sharing makes cycling more accessible to lower-income individuals.

Female cyclist on Bleeper bike at crosswalk

Dockless Bike Sharing

Most of the research in Europe on the impacts of bike sharing on congestion are limited to Docked Bike Sharing Systems. However, the introduction of Dockless bike sharing systems (like Bleeper) in many cities shows a change in travel behaviour which may have different impacts on motor-vehicle usage.

One study based in China found that ''dockless bike sharing replaced about 12,800 km of previously motorized trips in total,'' and ''11% [of users surveyed] switched from private cars, 14% from taxis or ride-hailing services and 64% from motorcycles.'' The transition from motor vehicles to dockless bike sharing systems had a significant impact on air quality, reducing total carbon emissions by 4.8 million tons annually.

Dockless Bike Sharing Systems provide greater flexibility and efficiency for users, encouraging more people to cycle. Whereas Docked Bike Stations are often limited in their location due to space, Dockless Bikes provide better integration with public transit systems encouraging multi-modal transport.

Bleeper public rental bikes at public bike stands in Dublin.

Docked Biked Sharing systems require the redistribution of bicycles between stations, and when this is done using motor vehicles such as trucks or vans, the benefits of bike sharing on congestion and air pollution are reduced.

Another study of cities in the United States, Great Britain and Australia found that Bike Sharing System operators travelled more kilometres rebalancing bicycles between stations than Bike Sharing users travelled, cancelling out the effects of car substitution.

Bleeper public rental bikes on a trailer carried by a Bleeper eCargobike at Trinity College Dublin.
The Bleeper Team arriving at the Trinity and National Transport Authority (NTA) 10-Year-Partnership event in March 2022

In contrast, Dockless Bike Sharing Systems do not require the same levels of redistributing bicycles. Moreover, the Bleeper Operations Team take action to reduce motor vehicle usage in our Operations, instead using cargobikes and trailers to redistribute bicycles within Dublin City Centre.

Bleeper public bikes carried on a trailer by a bike in Sandymount, Dublin.

Dockless Bike Sharing Systems provide a highly flexible and efficient transportation solution at a low cost to the public. Understanding how this new system of bike sharing impacts congestion is important for businesses and policymakers seeking to invest in this technology. Therefore, further research should investigate the impacts of Dockless Bike Sharing Systems on congestion and air pollution.