Students from The George Washington University’s Master of Public Policy and Public Administration Program fielded a survey of Capital Bikeshare members that focused on their health, in addition to basic demographic and system-usage information.
These students analyzed the survey responses to draw conclusions about health before and after joining the Bikeshare program.
Capital Bikeshare’s Membership is Distinct from the Population at Large
- The Health Survey’s respondents were younger than the population at large, and were more likely to be male and white. Respondents were also wealthier than the population at large (in contrast, the 2013 Capital Bikeshare Member Survey found that members were slightly less affluent than the region when only commuters are considered).
- Respondents were highly educated (94.7 percent had a least a four-year college degree).
- The researchers did not compare these demographics to those of other, frequent cyclists in the region.
Members Have Varied Reasons for Joining Capital Bikeshare, but Primarily Use the System for Transportation
- Respondents most frequently rated “get around more easily, faster, shorter time” and “access to other form of transportation, new travel option” as “important” or “very important” reasons for joining the program.
- “Exercise, fitness” was an important motivator for a much lower 27.3 percent of respondents, while 9.7 percent graded broader “health concerns” as important.
- Researchers speculate that, while exercise was not a primary reason for joining and not a primary reason for making Bikeshare trips, users are likely receiving the health benefits of “active commuting” as found in earlier studies.
Capital Bikeshare Members Reported Good Health and High Levels of Physical Activity before Joining the Program
- 59.1 percent of respondents reported their health as “very good” or “excellent” prior to joining , and 53 percent of respondents reported that they had been engaging in at least 3 hours of “moderate to strenuous physical activities” before joining bikeshare.
- As a benchmark, the World Health Organization suggests that an individual engage in at least 30 minutes of such activity per day, while the American Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend at least 2.5 hours of “moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week and muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days.”
- Based on these figures, a majority of respondents were already undertaking the recommended level of physical activity before joining Bikeshare.
Members Also Reported Health Improvements and Increased Physical Activity after Joining Capital Bikeshare
- The share of respondents who reported “very good” or “excellent” health after joining the program was 65.8 percent, indicating an improvement in health after joining the program.
- “Reduced stress” and “improved stamina” were the two most frequently reported, individual health improvements, though 42.5 percent said that they experienced no specific health improvements.
- 60 percent of respondents reported that they engaged in at least three hours of “moderate to strenuous” physical activities per week after joining Capital Bikeshare, indicating an increase in physical activity outside of Bikeshare rides after joining.
Capital Bikeshare Could Bring Disproportionately Higher Health Benefits to Currently Underserved Areas
- Low-income individuals, generally, and residents in the District of Columbia’s Wards 7 and 8 (which are home to only 0.8 percent and 0.4 percent of respondents) are underserved by Capital Bikeshare.
- If these populations have higher rates of obesity, as seen in low-income populations elsewhere, expanding Capital Bikeshare to these areas could offer disproportionate benefits, as other researchers have found that cycling provides greater marginal benefits for adults with low levels of fitness.
Capital Bikeshare Can Take Steps to Enhance its Funding Based on Health Impacts and Could Conduct Two Additional Kinds of Studies to Better Understand the Program’s Health Impacts
- Researchers recommended that Capital Bikeshare pursue more health-related grants in order to increase outreach to lower income communities. They found that other bikeshare systems around North America are supported, in part, by healthcare companies and public health-related grants.
- Capital Bikeshare could expand evaluation of its health effects by using a health impact assessment tool, or a research-based model of how bikeshare membership impacts health. (Mobility lab researchers are working on a health-impact-assessment tool for other mobility management programs).
- A companion survey of non-members would strengthen understanding of Capital Bikeshare’s health effects by minimizing the selection-bias problem inherent in the study.
- Repeating the health survey on an annual basis with the same respondents would allow researchers to more accurately understand the relationship between bikesharing and health over time, and would minimize the problems associated with having respondents characterize their health at some point in the past.
- Data Collection and analysis completed by Brian Alberts, Eric Pierce, and Jamie Palumbo of the The George Washington University’s Master of Public Policy and Public Administration Program. Technical assistance provided by LDA Consulting.
- Online survey with 44 questions fielded over a two-week period.
- The survey population included 13,886 Capital Bikeshare members, of whom 2,830 completed the survey for a response rate of 20 percent.
- Researchers simultaneously fielded the 2013 Capital Bikeshare Member Survey (a follow up to the 2011-2012 Capital Bikeshare Member Survey). In order to avoid any “survey fatigue” that might have occurred if members received invitations to complete both surveys, researchers split Capital Bikeshare members into two populations; one received invitations to the Health Survey while the other received invitations to the Bikeshare Membership Survey.
DOCUMENTS FOR DOWNLOAD
Full Literature Review (PDF)
Full report available on the Capital Bikeshare System Data site.