Inequalities in the London bicycle sharing system revisited: impacts of extending the scheme to poorer areas but then doubling prices

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Goodman, A ; Cheshire, J (2014)

Cycling confers transport, health and environmental benefits, and bicycle sharing systems are an increasingly popular means of promoting urban cycling. Following the launch of the London bicycle sharing system (LBSS) in 2010, women and residents of deprived areas were under-represented among initial users. This paper examines how the profile of users has changed across the scheme’s first 3 years, using total-population registration and usage data. We find that women still make fewer than 20% of all ‘registered-use’ LBSS trips, although evidence from elsewhere suggests that the introduction of ‘casual’ use has encouraged a higher overall female share of trips. The proportion of trips by registered users from ‘highly-deprived areas’ (in the top tenth nationally for income deprivation) rose from 6% to 12%. This was due not only to the 2012 LBSS extension to some of London’s poorest areas, but also to a steadily increasing share of trips by residents of highly-deprived areas in the original LBSS zone. Indirect evidence suggests, however, that the twofold increase in LBSS prices in January 2013 has disproportionately discouraged casual-use trips among residents of poorer areas. We conclude that residents in deprived areas can and do use bicycle sharing systems if these are built in their local areas, and may do so progressively more over time, but only if the schemes remain affordable relative to other modes.
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