Bikesharing saves DC hundreds of millions of dollars

  • Published on October 2nd, 2017

Did DC’s bikeshare help, or hurt, the city’s congestion problem? Some people have claimed that the bicyclists using Capital Bikeshare were former pedestrians and metro travelers, so didn’t really replace automobile traffic. In this way, bicycles may have even added to the congestion. But a recent study by Timothy L. Hamilton and Casey J. Wichman supports the opposite — bikesharing got people out of their cars and cut congestion.

washington dc bikesharingBy Cynthia Shahan

This study — Bicycle infrastructure, and traffic congestion: Evidence from DC’s Capital Bikeshare — found that Capital Bikeshare cut neighborhood traffic congestion by ~4%. “Empirical results suggest that the availability of a bike-share reduces traffic congestion upwards of 4% within a neighborhood.” emphasizes: “That may not sound like a big number, but it can result in some pretty significant benefits. The authors write: ‘This would reduce annual congestion costs for Washington area automobile commuters by approximately $57 per commuter, and total costs by $182 million. In terms of social benefits, a 4% reduction in traffic congestion for our study area would imply an annual benefit of roughly $1.28 million from reductions in congestion-induced CO2 emissions.’”

However, even those benefits are conservative. Wash Cycle contends: “This value ignores any benefits from cleaner air (like NOx emissions), private cost-savings from mode-switching and any health benefits that may accrue to bicycle commuters. They also found that congestion mitigation occurs primarily in areas with relatively high congestion and that there was actually almost no spillover effect.”

All in all, in this case at least, bikesharing has apparently had a tremendously positive effect on the areas of DC where it was implemented.

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(Originally appeared at our sister-site, Bikocity. Image by thisisbossi)

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  • It also ignores the cost to society of Bikeshare riders–the majority–who aren’t wearing helmets when injured.

    • Serious injuries among bikeshare riders are rare. The benefits to society from greater public health through exercise probably greatly exceeds the costs of bikeshare-related head injuries.

      • Any objective cost benefit analysis would include the cost of caring for bikeshare riders who sustain head injuries while riding without a helmet.

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