Barcelona’s bike sharing program health benefits

Last week, we published excerpts from an article
written by Chris Rissel, Professor of Public Health at University of Sydney, about
the Melbourne bike sharing scheme. One of Rissel’s arguments was that the low
uptake of the bike sharing schemes in Australia was in part due to the
mandatory helmet laws, going on to suggest that that health benefits from the
scheme are much higher than risks relating to not wearing helmets.

This week we have come across a study published by the
British Medical Journal that supports Rissel’s theory, claiming that bicycle
sharing schemes actually save lives. Our thanks to for the article.

The widely used bike sharing scheme in Barcelona,
Bicing, was started in 2007 and after only two years had more than 180,000
citizens enrolled (11 percent of the city population). Since many of the people
who participated in the program were likely new bikers transitioning from
driving, the BMJ study examined the net impacts on public health resulting from
a significant citywide shift to biking from driving. The researchers measured
the health outcomes and mortality risk associated with changes in residents’
amount of physical activity, chance of accidental injury, and exposure to air

Examining data provided by the city of Barcelona and
Bicing’s management company, the researchers determined that despite increased
risk of injuries and exposure to air pollution from biking (yes, even cycling
has some negative health effects), the increased physical activity still
decreased the overall death rate. This was across a range of scenarios tested
to account for variations in data, with a net health benefit almost always
observed for the Bicing users.

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