If it takes a hike, riders won't go for bike sharing

January 30, 2020

ITHACA, N.Y. - Even a relatively short walk to find the nearest bicycle is enough to deter many potential users of bike sharing systems, new Cornell research suggests.

"If a docking station is more than two or three blocks away, they just won't go there," said Karan Girotra, professor of operations, technology and innovation at Cornell Tech and the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business. "And if they encounter a station without bikes, it's very unlikely they will go to the next station."

Girotra co-authored "Bike-Share Systems: Accessibility and Availability," published in November by Management Science, with Elena Belavina, associate professor at the School of Hotel Administration in the SC Johnson College, and Ashish Kabra, assistant professor at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business.

Their findings imply that, outside of a few big stations at major transit hubs, cities and bike-share operators should strive to create denser networks with many smaller stations, Girotra and Belavina said, and keep them stocked.

"It's no surprise that people want stations close to them, but it's much closer than most planners and bike-share systems thought they needed," Belavina said. "Most systems are nowhere close to their optimal density."

Bike sharing systems hold the potential to reduce traffic and pollution in dense, flat cities such as London, New York, Paris and Shanghai, the researchers noted. They encourage and enhance public transit use by providing "last mile" connections to bus and train stations.

But "their promise of urban transformation is far from being fully realized," according to the paper. Many systems were established quickly, sometimes through public-private partnerships, and with less rigorous planning than higher-cost transit systems, Girotra said.

"There was perhaps an opportunity to put a little more thought into how a bike-share system can be introduced in a city," he said.

To that end, the research team built a model to produce the first estimates of how station proximity and bike availability influence bike-share operations.

The structural demand model analyzed data from Paris' Vélib' system - the largest outside China with roughly 17,000 bikes and 950 stations - during four months of 2013, a period that included nearly 4.4 million trips. The data provided snapshots of system usage every two minutes, showing how stations changed throughout each day.

The researchers blended that information with data about population density in different city districts, metro ridership, attendance at top tourist destinations and weather conditions. The team also logged the locations of thousands of points of interest such as transit stations, parks, libraries, hotels, grocery stores, restaurants and cafes.

"Put together," Belavina said, "that gave us some ability to disentangle what guides people's decisions in choosing bike sharing and different bike-share stations."

The model determined that someone roughly 300 meters (nearly 1,000 feet) from a docking station is 60% less likely to use the service than someone very near the station. The odds decrease slightly with every additional meter, such that someone 500 meters away - about one-third of a mile - is "highly unlikely to use the system."

But a 10% increase in bike availability - the likelihood of finding a bicycle at a station - would grow ridership by roughly 12%, the study found, thanks to fewer lost sales at out-of-stock stations and improved expectations of the system.

Among the various points of interest, placing stations near grocery stores provides the most benefit, the model showed.

Generating the study's findings required methodological advances to adapt demand modeling to a bike-share context, the researchers said.

Models have long predicted shifts in usage patterns when considering new locations for transit stations, retail outlets or bank ATMs. But bike-share demand in a major city, with hundreds of stations changing inventory throughout each day, involved studying a more dynamic system with much finer resolution, Girotra said.

The team's huge volume of data might have required completing more than a quadrillion calculations to generate the best estimates, likely taking over a year, according to the paper. Instead, the researchers developed new computational techniques, Belavina said, to condense some data and make the process more manageable.

The resulting model, according to the co-authors, can be applied not only to bike-share systems but other micro-mobility services: scooters, powered bikes, local food delivery and ride-sharing. The researchers plan to look more broadly at micro-mobility in a future study partnering with London's transit agency.

Regarding bike sharing, the study's advice was clear: "Make bikes and stations more available," Girotra said. "People don't like walking to access a bike-share system."
-end-


Cornell University

Related Bicycle Articles from Brightsurf:

New findings for viral research on bicycle crashes at railroad crossings
Professor Chris Cherry's new work, ''A jughandle design will virtually eliminate single bicycle crashes at a railway crossing,'' provides a unique opportunity to assess the before and after safety performance of fixing a skewed rail crossing for single bicycle crashes.

Do bicycles slow down cars on low speed, low traffic roads? Latest research says 'no'
The new article Evidence from Urban Roads without Bicycle Lanes on the Impact of Bicycle Traffic on Passenger Car Travel Speeds published in Transportation Research Record, the Journal of the Transportation Research Board, demonstrates that bicycles do not significantly reduce passenger car travel speeds on low speed, low volume urban roads without bicycle lanes.

Youth-inspired program increases bike helmet use by urban children
To reduce the number of traumatic brain injuries in children, a team of health care professionals at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health is urging emergency room physicians to help ensure that youngsters are thoroughly educated on the proper use of bike helmets, especially in urban environments where most severe head injuries occur.

Portland State study finds bike lanes provide positive economic impact
Despite longstanding popular belief, bicycle lanes can actually improve business.

Multifunctional small brains
Researchers from the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience in Amsterdam, discovered that not only the cerebral cortex is responsible for higher perceptual abilities but that the cerebellum also plays a role.

Over one-fifth of injured US adult cyclists were not wearing a helmet -- new study
Men and ethnic minorities are less likely to wear cycle helmets and more likely to suffer from head and neck injuries in accidents, according to new research published in Brain Injury.

Drug use, excess alcohol and no helmet common among US injured eScooter users
A significant proportion of eScooter injuries in the US seem to be occurring while 'drivers' are under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol and almost never wearing a helmet, suggests a study of admissions to three US major trauma centres, published online in Trauma Surgery & Acute Care Open.

To increase bike commuters, look to neighborhoods
People agree that bike commuting improves health, reduces air pollution and eases traffic, a recent survey suggests.

On your bike?
A James Cook University researcher says a lack of suitable roads is a big reason why cycling participation rates in Australia and Queensland are so low.

Sweating for science: A sauna session is just as exhausting as moderate exercise
Your blood pressure does not drop during a sauna visit - it rises, as well as your heart rate.

Read More: Bicycle News and Bicycle Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.