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London's Bike Sharing Program Has Health Benefits

Benefits clearer for men than for women, and for older users

MONDAY, Feb. 24, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- London's bike sharing program is having a positive impact on health, with clearer benefits seen for men and older users, according to a study published Feb. 13 in BMJ.

James Woodcock, Ph.D., from the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom, and colleagues modeled the health impact of the London bicycle sharing system using data from 578,607 users. The bike sharing system makes bikes available at over 500 docking systems throughout London. Users can sign up online for an access key to become registered users or pay at a docking station for a one-time use. Participants in this program made 7.4 million trips from April 2011 to March 2012.

The researchers found that 31 percent of the trips would have otherwise been made on foot and 47 percent would have been made via public transport. A trend was observed toward fewer fatalities and injuries than expected. Based on the injury rates, the benefits of the program have outweighed the harms (net change, −72 disability-adjusted life years [DALYs] for men using cycle hire per accounting year and −15 DALYs for women). The benefits were smaller when injury rates were modeled as being equal to background injury rates for all cycling, with no evidence noted of a benefit for women (−49 DALYs for men and −1 DALY for women). Benefits were much greater than the harms among older users.

"London's bicycle sharing system has positive health impacts overall, but these benefits are clearer for men than for women and for older users than for younger users," Woodcock and colleagues conclude.

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