Commuters Flock to Bike Shares in Cities Despite Concerns Over Health Risk

June 19, 2020 by Jacob Pederson

With public transportation offline in some areas and alternatives like Uber being a little too close for comfort due to the coronavirus outbreak, a growing number of city residents are looking at municipal bike share programs to get around.

However, even here, questions abound: How do I know the bike is clean and being sanitized often enough to ensure riding it won’t make me sick?

All over the country, commuters are using bike share programs to get around on unusually quiet city streets, according to Brooks Rainwater, director for National League of Cities’ Center for City Solutions. 

Bikes shares are bicycle and scooter renting programs designed to supplement other forms of public transportation like buses, trains, and subways, said Rainwater.

According to Rainwater, automobile ridership has decreased by 50% since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Meanwhile, the use of bike share programs has risen from 67% in New York City to 150% in Philadelphia, according to the World Research Institute, and by more than 100% in Chicago, said Streets Blog Chicago.

Russell Murphy, spokesman for Lime Scooter Rental, explains this is due to the ease of maintaining social distancing on bikes and scooters versus the cramped conditions of buses and other enclosed public transportation vehicles.

“Many [people] are turning to scooters and bikes as a way to travel while maintaining social distance, something that’s harder to do on the Metro or in rideshare vehicles,” he said.

The availability of the bikes and scooters allows essential employees to get around and for people to tend to their basic needs and emergencies, according to the World Research Institute. Even in cities where bike share companies have put their programs on hold, such as Seattle, citizens are still using their own bicycles at an observably higher rate, said Rainwater.

Some bike share programs temporarily shut down because of decreased demand due to stay-at-home orders, not necessarily because of disease risk, explained Rainwater. In fact, a recent report in the Journal of Infectious Disease suggests that natural sunlight is as effective as disinfectants in deactivating the virus on the stainless steel and plastic surfaces of bikes and scooters.

Some bike share programs are initiating safety measures recommended by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, which include disinfecting bikes and scooters each time they arrive at stations and depots and keeping bike share facilities clean.

Transportation authorities are in charge of seeing these actions through, but capacity to do so may be limited due to staffing constraints, said Dr. Oscar Alleyne, chief of programs and services for the National Association of County and City Health Officials. This leaves the sanitation responsibilities in the hands of bike share companies themselves to oversee and implement.

As the economy of the country begins to reopen, the utilization of bikes and scooters to get around is expected to go up, said Rainwater. This is due to reduced capacity on mass transit vehicles to maintain social distancing and budget cuts for many public transportation programs caused by the lull in tax revenue from the economic fallouts of the pandemic, he said.

“There is a great opportunity here, as more people are using bikes and scooters, to transform the way people usually get around,” he said. 

To accommodate the increased bike traffic, some cities have installed pop-up bike lanes, where cities temporarily dedicate street lanes to bikes. Similar repurposing can be seen around the world, with Mexico City, London, Berlin, Bogotá, and other global cities implementing bike accessibility measures since the pandemic started, according to the World Research Institute.

Cities and nations alike are planning investments in biking infrastructure and more bike share programs to produce jobs while reducing congestion, which is expected to significantly increase over time as people opt out of public transit, according to a report by Vanderbilt University.

The same increase in traffic might lead to the reopening of previously closed streets, which would present a challenge to the continued growth of bikes and scooters as a mode of transportation in the long run, said Rainwater.

“It’s a time for cities to experiment, using their streets as testing grounds for change,” said the World Research Institute.

In The News

Health

Voting

Cities

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms Not Seeking Reelection
In The News
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms Not Seeking Reelection

ATLANTA (AP) — Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms announced Thursday she will not seek a second term, an election-year surprise that marks a sharp turnabout for the city's second Black woman executive who months ago was among those President Joe Biden considered for his running mate.... Read More

St. Louis Elects First Black Female Mayor
Cities
St. Louis Elects First Black Female Mayor
April 8, 2021
by Dan McCue

St. LOUIS - Tishaura Jones, running on a promise to reform and revitalize her city, has become the first Black woman elected mayor of St. Louis. As previously reported by The Well News, this year’s mayoral race featured a new, nonpartisan voting system that was approved... Read More

Georgia Prevails in Water War With Florida
Supreme Court
Georgia Prevails in Water War With Florida
April 1, 2021
by Dan McCue

WASHINGTON - A cross-border battle over water rights extending back some 27 years came to an abrupt end on Thursday when the Supreme Court ruled Florida failed to show its once-thriving oyster region was destroyed by Georgia’s unrelenting thirst for water. Hostilities over what constitutes the... Read More

New York City Unveils 'First Ever' Racial Justice Commission
Cities
New York City Unveils 'First Ever' Racial Justice Commission
March 23, 2021
by TWN Staff

NEW YORK - New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a new racial justice commission Tuesday, which he said will be tasked with targeting and dismantling structural and institutional racism across the city. At the same time the new body, which de Blasio said is... Read More

Invoking No Taxation Without Representation, DC Again Seeks Statehood
In The States
Invoking No Taxation Without Representation, DC Again Seeks Statehood
March 22, 2021
by Tom Ramstack

WASHINGTON -- The tumultuous legacy left by rioters during the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol carried through into a congressional hearing Monday on statehood for the District of Columbia. The mayor wanted to call in the National Guard as soon as the rioters tried... Read More

Chicago Expanding Outdoor Dining and Creative Spaces
Cities
Chicago Expanding Outdoor Dining and Creative Spaces
March 19, 2021
by Sara Wilkerson

CHICAGO – The City of Chicago announced a new initiative called Chicago Alfresco, which seeks to not only expand the city’s outdoor dining program but also allow businesses and non-profit organizations to design creative long-term outdoor spaces. The initiative is part of the city’s plan to... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top