Study says exercise benefits far outweigh miniscule negative impacts

In an average year in Barcelona 12 deaths are avoided thanks to the Bicing bike hire scheme.

That’s the conclusion of a study published in the British Medical Journal which looked at the risks and benefits to health of using a bicycle sharing scheme, compared with travelling by car in an urban environment.

The study looked at deaths linked to physical activity, air pollution and road traffic incidents. It also considered the change in levels of carbon dioxide emissions which an increased use of bicycles over motorised vehicles brings about.

The study determined that the estimated annual change in mortality of the Barcelona residents using Bicing was 0.03 additional deaths from road traffic incidents and 0.13 additional deaths from air pollution.

However, the study estimates that as a result of the physical activity involved in using the bikes, 12.46 deaths were avoided meaning the annual number of deaths avoided was 12.28.

In terms of its environmental impact the study found that as a result of journeys by Bicing bikes, annual carbon dioxide emissions were reduced by over 9,000 tonnes.

In its conclusions the study found that public bicycle sharing initiatives such as Bicing in Barcelona have greater benefits than risks to health and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

The study was based on Barcelona’s 181 982 Bicing subscribers. The Barclays Cycle Hire scheme in London, meanwhile, has almost 135,000 members and has so far seen almost 6.2m individual hires of which 5.1m were from members rather than casual users.

While the Barcelona results are not necessarily directly scalable to London, they do provide powerful evidence of the tangible benefits, other than improved traffic flow, that mass market cycle hire schemes confer on the populations that use them.