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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Drexel: New Research – Exploring Barriers and Potential of “Free-floating” Bikeshare

Increasing the availability of bicycles is a tool to encourage physical activity and reduce the high-traffic and pollution created by cars. Across the United States, innovative methods for providing access to bikes have emerged, including smartphone-operated bikeshare systems that do not use stations (i.e. dockless, free-floating or flexible bikeshare). Locally, the city of Philadelphia is currently accepting applications from operators to run a dockless bikeshare pilot.

Amidst these national and local changes, Dr. Jana Hirsch, an assistant research professor in the Urban Health Collaborative at the Drexel University Dornsife School of Public Health, has new work that looks at the potential benefits and challenges associated with these bicycle fleets.

Dr. Hirsch’s research, published in the journal Transport Reviews in August 2019, discusses  obstacles that free-floating bikeshare needs to overcome for long-term sustainability, including barriers common to station-based systems: limited infrastructure to support cycling, equity, theft or vandalism, and funding. Other unique obstacles arise in free-floating bikeshare around parking, sidewalk right of ways, varied bicycle types, and data sharing.

The review article sheds light on the increasing use of free-floating bikeshare and suggests priority areas for future research. Dr. Hirsch writes, “if concerns can be overcome, free-floating bikeshare may provide unprecedented opportunities to bypass congested streets, encourage physical activity, and support urban sustainability.”

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