Background Bicycle sharing systems are being implemented in many cities worldwide, but have received little robust evaluation. We modelled the impacts of the London cycle hire scheme (LCH) upon the health of its users.
Methods Data sources included total-population operational registration and usage data for LCH (April 2011-March 2012); surveys of LCH users (2011); and London data on travel, physical activity, road traffic collisions and PM2.5 air pollution (collected 2005-2012). We quantified health impacts in terms of disability-adjusted life years (DALYs), using a stochastic macro-simulation model.
Results Over the year examined, 578,607 users made 7.4 million LCH trips (estimated 71% by men). These would mostly otherwise have been walked (31%) or used public transport (47%). To date there have been no fatalities on hire bikes and a trend towards fewer injuries than expected for London cycling. Using these observed injury rates, LCH benefits substantially outweighed risks (gain currently estimated at 116 DALYs (95% CI 80, 172) among males; 28 (19, 64) among females). When we modelled injury rates as being equal to rates for all cycling in central London, however, these benefits reduced and became non-significant for women (97 DALYs (95% CI 60, 153) among males; 5 DALYs (-9, 40) among females). This sex difference reflected comparatively high road collision fatality rates for female cyclists in London.
Conclusion LCH has positive health impacts overall, but these benefits are clearer for males than females. The benefits of bicycle sharing systems, and cycling more generally, do not necessarily apply to all groups in all settings.
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