Now, in addition to making cities cleaner, a study out of London has discovered that participation in bike sharing programs can also help residents live longer!
It’s pretty well known that riding a bike is good for the environment. Swapping four wheels for two means using calories as fuel instead of gas (the only true zero-emissions ride). Bike sharing programs, which are appearing rapidly all over the world, compound the benefits. Since participants access bikes only when they need them, the same bike is used and reused thousands of times before it has to be repaired or replaced.
According to a study of London’s robust bike share system recently published in the British Medical Journal, making bikes accessible for short commutes around town delivers big health benefits for the population, especially older men.
To arrive at this conclusion, researchers analyzed 12 months of data from all 578,607 people registered for the London’s bike share system. They found that because a bike sharing program was in place, Londoners (71 percent of them male) made 7.4 million trips by bicycle that would otherwise have been made on foot (31 percent) or by public transport (47 percent). Even when accounting for potential risks, like fatalities and injuries that occur when bikes and cars collide, the researchers found that bike sharing had an overwhelmingly positive influence on public health.
The DALY (one DALY can be thought of as one lost year of ‘healthy’ life) for men using the bike sharing program dropped by 72, while dropping by 15 for women. This means that the ability to make more trips by bike actually reduced participants’ chances of developing life-threatening conditions like heart disease and diabetes, thus extending their expected life span.
If you live in an urban area, and want to improve your health through bike commuting but don’t have the money or space for your own bike, a local bike sharing program could be the answer!
BikeShare.com has a fantastic list of bike sharing programs in communities all over the world. You can also learn more about the bike sharing phenomenon by reading the posts below.
Image via Thinkstock
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