This is an excerpt of an article that was originally published by Jill Barker in The Montreal Gazette on March 2nd, 2014.
In one study, most of the users of a bike-share program were men 15 to 44. Bixi could maximize health benefits by trying to boost ridership among women and older cyclists. Men benefit from a decrease in heart disease, while women have a reduction in depression, the study, in London, showed.
When all factors were considered, including the risks associated with cycling, the boost in physical activity among bike-share users resulted in significant health gains at the population level. Men benefited from a decrease in heart disease while women had a reduction in depression. Because women used the service less than men, though, they realized fewer health benefits.
At the individual level, however, the health benefits were small, due mainly to the infrequent use of the bikes. Researchers estimated a reduced death rate of 3.3 — 10.9 deaths per million users per year.
As for the effects of air pollution on urban cyclists, the researchers estimated that exposure levels were small and of little effect as compared to other modes of transportation.
When it came to road injuries, the rate of injury was lower than for cycling in general, despite the lack of compulsory helmets. It was hypothesized that the heavier, sturdy bikes resulted in reduced speeds, which when combined with designated bike paths and built-in lights, made the use of city bikes safer than traditional road bikes.
Overall, the researchers concluded, the benefits of using bike-share programs outweighed any risk. This is especially true as cyclists got older. In a younger population, 30 to 44 years old, where the risk of chronic disease is lower, the health effects were minimal. But for bike-share users 45 to 59 years of age, the extra physical activity had a far greater impact on health.
To read the full article, click here.