Dr Elliot Fishman investigated the barriers to bikeshare schemes, and cycling generally, for his PhD thesis at QUT’s Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety – Queensland (CARRS-Q), as well as the impacts such schemes had on car use in the cities where they operate.
He found that conditions for cycling needed to improve, including an increase in separated bicycle paths and lower speed limits on roads without them.
Any plan to increase the popularity of bikeshare programs would need to address the “perception that cycling is dangerous, which is best done by improving bicycle infrastructure,” Dr Fishman said.
“Australia’s two bikeshare programs, CityCycle in Brisbane and Melbourne Bike Share, have significantly lower usage levels than all other bikeshare programs of comparable size in the world,” Dr Fishman, who has recently returned from a post doctoral position at Utrecht University in the Netherlands and is Director of the Australian based Institute for Sensible Transport, said.
“There are now more than 700 bikeshare programs worldwide and I wanted to find out why fewer people in somewhere like Brisbane were willing to use them compared with other world cities.
“This involved focus groups, surveys with members and non-members, modelling and geospatial analysis.”
Focus group data revealed three main barriers to using the CityCycle scheme in Brisbane.
“Accessibility and spontaneity issues were the first key barrier, particularly the lengthy sign up process and the legal requirement in Australia to wear a helmet. However changes to the sign-up processes and the provision of helmets on many of the bikes after the initial research resulted in increased usage.
“The second focused on safety concerns – this was considered a major issue and included a perceived lack of suitable bicycle infrastructure, excessive car speed and regular riders reporting a negative attitude of some drivers.
“The final theme was something CityCycle operators can do nothing about – weather and topography, relating to Brisbane’s humid summers and hilly terrain.”
Dr Fishman found one way the popularity of CityCycle could be improved was by simplifying spontaneous use, for example a credit card swipe option, and greater incentives to sign up new members.
However to generally encourage more Australians to ride would require a strong focus on improving safety.
“Conditions for cycling in Australian cities fall well short of international best practice and whilst improvements have been made, they have only begun to scratch the surface,” Dr Fishman said.
“The convenience of cycling relative to car use needs to be a focus if bikeshare is to thrive in Australia.
“To significantly increase rates of bicycling, safety must be prioritised and the road traffic environment must also be made to feel safe.
“The findings suggest this can be achieved through measures such as reallocating more road space for bicycles, lowering speed limits and awareness and education campaigns. This would help provide a road environment that is safer and, importantly, is perceived to be safer for people to use bikes.”
The research found bikeshare schemes including CityCycle were successful in reducing the number of cars on the road and people using public transport.
In Brisbane, 21 per cent of CityCycle users surveyed in 2012 reported cycling on a journey where they would have driven a car. This saved an estimated 142,361km travelled by car in 2012.
Rob Kidd, QUT Media, 07 3138 1841, firstname.lastname@example.org
After hours, Rose Trapnell, 0407 585 901