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11374455_914558265270683_178468198_nIt didn’t take long for Philadelphia’s new bike share system, Indego, to hit epic proportions. According to recent data released by the city, Indego boasted more than 40,000 trips and 3,000 memberships in the first month.

And that’s good for lots of reasons. For one, Philadelphians are choosing a sustainable, fun, traffic-calming solution for getting from Point A to Point B.

For another: According to a new study—science, if you will—we now have proof that bike share makes a city cleaner, and who doesn’t want a cleaner Philadelphia?

Researchers at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and Queensland University in Australia looked at bike share data from Washington, D.C.; Minneapolis; Melbourne, Australia; Brisbane, Australia; and London to figure out whether the fuel expenses associated with bike share (like, whether it actually reduced car usage, rather than walking or public transportation) and had that net positive or negative effect on a city’s cleanliness. And, for the most part, bike share seems to be reducing cities’ reliance on motor vehicles.

According to Momentum Magazine, who summarized the 14 page report:

By crunching the numbers in ridership levels, data from the bikeshare programs’ fuel expenses and surveys sent to users, researchers found that in all the cities studied (with the exception of London) bikeshare’s benefits outweigh the rebalancing costs.

For instance, for every kilometer driven by a rebalancing van, two to four times that distance in private car mileage is avoided.  In D.C., for example, vans drove 200,896 kilometers (124,831 miles) in 2012, equivalent to at least 249,662 miles that private cars weren’t driving. If we assume a generous 25 miles per gallon fuel economy for those private cars, that’s about 100 tons of CO2 saved, not to mention the decreased traffic and added exercise for bikeshare users.

Basically, in most cities, the amount of people replacing car usage with bike share, rather than walking, is having a positive, sustainable effect. Just check out this email we were recently forwarded from a new user who used to do a combination of driving and public transportation:

unnamedSo, when you use bike share, you’re helping create a cleaner city, no matter where you are (except for London, which, because of their vastly superior public transportation system, began with an extremely low rate of car and truck drivers). And if that isn’t another great reason to continue using bike share, we don’t know what is.

Randy LoBasso

Author

Randy LoBasso is the policy manager at the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia.

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