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Study: Bike share schemes could help the neediest in society - but only with long term planning

Still many barriers to making communal schemes work in low income areas

A major US study into how shared mobility programs like bike-share can offer low-income residents greater access to opportunity has found that there has been little research into the transport needs of those living in deprived areas.

Living Cities, an organisation whose stated mission is to “harness the collective power of philanthropy and financial institutions to improve the lives of low-income people and the cities where they live”, commissioned research by the Institute for Transportation & Development Policy (ITDP) to explore the potential of new shared transportation models such as bike-share and car-share to improve low-income residents’ ability to access opportunity.

It noted that while bike-share, car-share and ride-share facilities had grown in popularity in the US, they had not spread to love income areas, and in particular to non white areas, meaning that those people who already faced very long and costly commutes were not seeing the benefit of the joined up transport opportunities shared mobility could offer.

The report noted that operators were often slow to expand to low income areas due to fears about profitability, and in many ways these fears were justified when some of the barriers to usage included potential users not having bank accounts with which to sign up.

While not finding a clear solution to the multiple barriers to spreading shared mobility schemes into low income areas, the study did conclude that shared mobility planning needed to be implemented within a long term plan for urban transport, with a view to extending the reach of public transport by providing joined up options.

Juan Sebastian Arias, a Program Associate at Living Cities, said: “The market for shared mobility is nascent and the field is still testing how for-profit and non-profit models can meet this new demand.

“Yet, similar to the private real estate market, for-profit models are unlikely to serve low-income communities without some incentive or subsidy (which the low income house tax credit provides for the affordable housing industry).

“Further research on the business models of bike-share, car-share and ride-share can help identify the appropriate subsidy or incentive needed for shared mobility models to locate in and serve low-income communities.”

Just yesterday we reported how the new Yorkshire Bank Bike Libraries initiative - which aims to lend donated bikes to the less well off was launched by Five-time Tour de France champion Bernard Hinault and Brian Robinson, the first British rider to win a stage in the race. The two Tour legends were joined by Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Scott Thwaites.

The first phase of the project sees people living in the region that in July hosted the Grand Départ of the 101st edition of the Tour de France asked to donate old bikes or ones they no longer use to allow other people to take to two wheels.

In the New Year, phase two will see community and not-for-profit organisations across Yorkshire bid for funding to operate bike libraries, aimed at ensuring that everyone in the region, and children in particular, can have access to a bike.

The scheme from Cycle Yorkshire is supported by Welcome to Yorkshire and Yorkshire Bank.

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Kim | 9 years ago

The problem ultimately comes down to money, without sustained and sustainable long term funding none of these things will really work. The same goes for providing the infrastructure needed to make cycling a safe, attractive option.

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