Healthy Benefits are Another Reason to Invest in Capital Bikeshare

Capital Bikeshare is a mobility management strategy that results in improved health – and health cost savings – of riders.

Health Implications of the Capital Bikeshare Program, a study by George Washington University students, identifies promising findings that could make a strong impact on bikeshare members and people in the Washington D.C. region in general.

Not surprisingly, the study confirmed that Capital Bikeshare members were generally healthier than the population at large, mirroring previous findings that members were typically well-educated, higher-income, white, and relatively young.

The study found that even though trips were typically short – 96 percent of Capital Bikeshare trips are two miles or less – the majority of members reported improved health after joining the program, including reduced stress, improved stamina, increased energy, and increased aerobic capacity. Most respondents (90 percent) indicated that they had lost or maintained weight since joining Capital Bikeshare.

The study’s authors conducted an extensive literature review of the health benefits of exercise, and concluded that, on page 12, “Across the literature, there seemed to be general agreement that active commuting can be beneficial to health.”

The study provides several recommendations to promote and extend the health benefits of the Capital Bikeshare program and paves the way for Capital Bikeshare to play an even more important role in improving the health of residents by increasing bikeshare membership and use in lower-income neighborhoods.

  • Seek health-related funding to improve outreach and program participation in lower-income communities that are not currently well represented in Capital Bikeshare membership.
  • Conduct a health impact assessment (HIA) of the Capital Bikeshare program to delve deeper into its health impacts. An HIA could pave the way for a targeted expansion of the program to meet the health goals of underserved communities.
  • Survey non-members to find out why Capital Bikeshare is not being used in some areas. Such a survey could increase awareness of the system as well as identify gaps in communication, marketing, and programs.
  • Conduct an annual health survey to measure the changes in the health of Capital Bikeshare members over time.

Arlington County’s leading-edge Mobility Lab research and Arlington County Commuter Services programs illustrate the power that transportation has in improving the health of the region’s residents. In partnership with Simple Solutions Planning & Design, LLC, Mobility Lab’s Transportation Cost-Savings Calculator estimates the return on investment of “transportation demand management” programs such as Capital Bikeshare.

The payoff of the Capital Bikeshare program in terms of public health and safety benefits include:

  • Physical activity:  People who increase their physical activity by using Capital Bikeshare reap the health benefits of riding a bicycle. Benefits include improved cardiovascular health and reduced weight and reduced body-mass index.
  • Access: Capital Bikeshare extends the transportation system beyond the limits of Metrorail or bus lines and improves access to health care providers, healthy food, and jobs. This has an impact on the health of members, especially in areas that are underserved by transit.
  • Safety: Capital Bikeshare often makes it possible to forgo a car trip. The benefits from reduced vehicle crashes can be substantial, as vehicle collisions are a leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Mental health: The GWU study found that 31.5 percent of respondents reported “reduced stress” since joining Capital Bikeshare. Mobility Lab will continue to study this important health benefit of mobility management programs.
  • Quality of the environment: Reducing the number of cars on the road results in better air and water quality which in turn results in better health outcomes. Capital Bikeshare is a clean, green way of getting around town which can help reduce respiratory and water-borne illnesses.

Regardless of where we live or how we choose to travel, we all strive to “get around more easily and in shorter time” – the most-frequently reported reason for joining Capital Bikeshare. The health benefits just come with the package, and are an added incentive for investment in the Capital Bikeshare program.

To watch the webinar, please go here.

For more highlights and the full report, please go here.

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