Many bikeshare systems have been operating for several years now. But even for newer
systems, the benefits that bikeshare provides to the city can actually be quantified according
to several key performance indicators: climate, health, economy, safety, equity and access.
Cities can use these (and other) indicators to evaluate the success of their bikeshare systems
and to assess impacts over time. At this stage, the city should review the goals it originally
established for bikeshare, and begin to analyze system data and user feedback to track
progress toward those goals. Analyzing success using a set of indicators can also provide
empirical evidence for continued funding, expanding across jurisdictional boundaries, or other
system-level decision making.
Areas in which the system is currently falling short on ridership numbers could help to inform
a strategy for expansion. Developing a plan that includes goals, measurable targets, and
financial projections for the coming years is recommended for systems considering expansion.
8.3.1 KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
Metric: reductions in greenhouse gas emissions
Encouraging mode shift away from private vehicles—especially for trips between two and five
kilometers—is a critical benefit of bikeshare. Fewer personal vehicle trips means less harmful
pollutants emitted into the air, improving air quality and reducing the city’s contribution to
climate change. Many cities have vehicle kilometers traveled (VKT) reduction goals included in
their citywide sustainability goals, and bikeshare can be an important intervention towards
achieving those VKT reduction targets. Bikeplus, UK’s 2017 user survey found that 23% of
bikeshare users chose bikeshare instead of a car to complete their most recent trip.
Emissions reductions as a result of modal shift do not have to be difficult or costly to measure.
The Transport Emissions Evaluation Model for Projects (TEEMP), developed by the Clean Air
Asia partnership, allows for measurement of CO2 (and other) impacts of transportation
interventions compared to the “business-as-usual” scenario. Cities should collect the data
necessary to run the TEEMP model for bikeshare, including average trip length, average trips
per day, and number of bikes in operation, to quantify the climate benefits of the system.
Metric: improving air quality, increasing physical activity
The health benefits of bikeshare are twofold: improved air quality as a result of traffic congestion
reduction due to mode shift away from personal vehicles, and physical activity. Exposure to
particulate matter from vehicle emissions has been linked to serious respiratory health problems,
and concentrations of particulate matter are higher around high-traffic roadways. Bikeshare
offers an alternative to vehicle travel—especially for short trips—and can help reduce local traffic
by taking cars off the road. A study of Washington, DC’s Capital Bikeshare system found that up to
a 4% reduction in neighborhood traffic congestion could be attributed to the availability of
bikeshare in that neighborhood. Less traffic congestion translates to reduced air pollution,
which benefits not only bikeshare users, but all city residents.
The physical activity offered by biking compared to other sedentary transport modes should
also be captured when valuing the health benefits of bikeshare. Quality-adjusted life years
(QALY) is an index used to quantify the impact of health-related interventions, and can be
calculated for the bikeshare service area population before and after the system launch.
Surveys such as the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ) can be used to monitor
actual physical activity across a sample of users.
Metric: time and cost savings compared to other modes, increasing local economic activity
Compared to other modes, bikeshare trips tend to be shorter (in travel time) and less
expensive. Thus, surveying bikeshare users to estimate time savings and monetary savings (as a
percent of individual income) compared to other modes can be used to estimate the economic
benefit of a bikeshare system. A 2017 study showed taking bikeshare in New York City to be faster
than taking a taxicab on short trips (up to 3 km) during high congestion times such as weekday
rush hours. Similarly, analysis of bikeshare trips in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood
shows that short, non-highway trips made by pedal assist e-bike are faster and less expensive
than other available modes.
In addition to saving time, bikeshare’s per-trip price is highly economical for users, with annual
bikeshare subscriptions in the US costing about the same as a monthly transit pass. An
analysis conducted by Value Penguin, an organization focused on personal finance, found that
the average commuter would save US$76 per month using an annual bikeshare membership
instead of transit, with that number soaring over US$100 in cities like Washington, DC, Los
Angeles, and New York.
Studies show that bikeshare also has the potential to generate local economic activity. A 2013
analysis of Washington, DC’s Capital Bikeshare found that significant economic activity was
generated by bikeshare users within four blocks of the bikeshare stations included in the
analysis, and that surveyed users intended to return to the area in subsequent weeks indicating
a consistent customer base. Findings also showed that 16% of trips taken by bikeshare would not
otherwise have been made if a bikeshare station were not available nearby, and more than
three-quarters of those trips were made by people intending to spend money. Bikeshare
stations enable more potential consumers to access a commercial area compared to vehicle
parking, as shown in NACTO’s analysis of the economic impact of 20 feet of curb space—the size
of an average car parking spot. A parking space would have to turn over 10.3 times per day to
generate the same amount of revenue generated by a seven-dock bikeshare station.
Metric: reducing road fatalities and serious injuries
Bikeshare safety can be evaluated broadly by calculating the number of fatalities out of the
total number of trips taken, compared to the same ratio for vehicle trips. With available data,
further evaluation should include the total number of cyclists killed or seriously injured (KSI)
in years prior to the bikeshare system launch compared to cyclist KSI after the launch, as well
as comparing these numbers inside and outside of the bikeshare service area (if the system is
station-based). New York City utilized this metric to analyze the influence of bikeshare on
overall cyclist KSI, and found a 17% reduction within the system’s original service area
compared to before the system launched.
Bikeshare is a relatively safe transportation option, especially compared to car travel or even
riding a personal bike. Studies show that collisions and injuries occur less often for bikeshare
riders than personal bike riders, perhaps due to the heavier, limited-speed design of most
bikeshare bikes. The US saw 28 million bikeshare trips taken in 2016, and only one fatality
that year (.0000036%).
Metric: people near bikeshare
Measuring access to bikeshare is key to building an equitable system, one that functions as an
affordable, reliable transportation mode for all city residents and visitors. A broad measure of
accessibility is the percent of the city population living within 500 meters of a bikeshare
station compared to the entire city area. If adequate GIS (geographic information system)
layers (e.g., population by census tract or similar geographic area) are available for a city and
stations are georeferenced, this analysis can be done with minimal effort.
Many cities improve access to and from transit by siting bikeshare stations at or in close
proximity to bus and rail stations to provide commuters with a seamless connection to their
final destination. Both Germany and the Netherlands have nationwide bikeshare systems
aimed at addressing the first-last-kilometer challenge, with bikeshare stations located at train
stations, bus and metro stops and 24-hour rental options. Fortaleza, Brazil offers free 12-
hour bikeshare rentals on a first-come first-served basis from certain train stations, enabling
commuters to bike home in the evening and back to the station in the morning. Chinese
dockless bikeshare operator Mobike reports that in Beijing, 81% of trips using their bikes start
within 300 meters of a bus station and 44% start within 500 meters of a metro station.
Limebike, another dockless operator, estimates that 40% of trips in its large US markets
connect to transit. Similarly, Bikeplus UK found that 65% of all bikeshare trips in the country
were taken in combination with a bus or train. Additional accessibility gains can be captured
through fare integration with transit, reducing the cost of a bike-to-bus or bike-to-metro trip.
Bikeshare has also proven critical in helping to offset congestion during transit construction
or improvements, offering an alternative, affordable mode when rail service is significantly
interrupted . In the early 2000s, as Bordeaux began construction on a new tram line, the city
simultaneously launched a free bikeshare program as a transportation alternative. Because of
increased congestion from the construction, Bordeaux saw a steep decline in vehicle trips
from 64% to 40% during the building of the tramway. During this time, the share of trips by bike
increased from less than 2% to 9%. The bikeshare system was made permanent and now offers
access to 1,800 bikes at 174 stations, many of which are located at bus and tram stops and train
stations. Similarly, in June 2016, Capital Bikeshare in Washington, DC debuted a new fare
option—US$2 per trip—just before the city’s Metrorail system underwent significant track
improvement work. Record high bikeshare ridership—6% higher than the previous record
high—was reported during this time.