Are Bikeshare Users Different from Regular Cyclists?

A First Look at Short-Term Users, Annual Members, and Area Cyclists in the Washington, D.C., Region
Source: Transportation Research Record

In recent years, bikeshare systems have spread throughout the U.S. Despite the increase in systems and users, little is known about how bikeshare member demographics and travel patterns compare to characteristics of traditional bicyclists. To bridge the gap, this paper investigates bikeshare system users' travel behavior and develops a profile of user demographics comparing short-term (one day) users and annual members of Capital Bikeshare (CaBi) in Washington, DC with profiles of area bicyclists. Data originate from the Washington, DC area regional household travel survey of 2007-2008, an intercept survey of short-term CaBi users, and anonline survey of annual CaBi members. The analysis compares gender, race/ethnicity, age, and student status, as well as socio-economic status across the surveys. Moreover, the comparison includes trip purpose, helmet usage, and travel modes for trips that were replaced by bikesharing.

Profiles of CaBi and area cyclists differ on many demographic and socioeconomic characteristics. Compared to area cyclists, CaBi short-term users and annual members are more likely female, younger, have lower household incomes, own fewer cars and fewer bicycles, and are more likely to cycle for utilitarian trip purposes. Furthermore, CaBi trips mainly replace public transport and walk trips. CaBi short-term users and members show similar characteristics, but short-term users are more likely to ride for recreational trip purposes and less likely to wear a helmet. The study results indicate that bikesharing can encourage new segments of society to cycle and can help increase overall bicycling mode share.

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