Along with the growing levels of residents’ travel demand, personal transportation plays an essential role in our lives. Especially in recent years, the numbers of personal cars have seen rapid growth. For example, ownership of personal vehicles in China has risen from 18.48 million in 2005 to 163.30 million in 2016 [1
]. The growing levels of personal cars impose externalities on society, the economy and the environment, which has attracted the attention of academia [2
]. Cars can increase employment, productivity, and economic growth [7
], but most attention has been on their negative externalities. According to the literature [5
], cars entail energy dependence, negative environmental effects (air pollution and noise annoyance), public health issues, road damage, accidents, congestion, and the overuse of public spaces in cities. Policy makers need to solve these negative externalities.
Solutions to negative externalities, such as Pigouvian taxes [11
] or cap-and-trade systems [15
], have been proposed from an economic point of view. Some policies, such as those of land use and transport planning [18
], incentives to public transport, and information campaigns [20
], can be combined with corrective instruments. In addition, regulations or new technology could play a role [5
]. In recent years, “transport sharing” has become increasingly popular across the globe, which is designed not only to reduce negative externalities but also to satisfy the demand of residents’ travel needs and economic development.
Bike-sharing, as a form of shared transportation, has received increasing attention in recent years. The basic premise of bike-sharing programs is sustainable transportation. Objectives associated with bike-sharing programs include increased cycle usage and mobility options, an improved first/last mile connection to other travel modes, reduced transport congestion and energy consumption, reduced environmental impacts, and improved public health [21
]. However, controversies regarding the implementation process, such as the waste of resources as well as bicycle maintenance and management [25
], have emerged. Therefore, two crucial questions consist in whether there are externalities, as well as whether and how such impacts can be estimated.
Many studies on bike-sharing have focused on qualitative evaluation and discussion. For example, Gleason and Miskimins present various methods of making bikes more available in federal lands, and explore how elements of successful bike programs may be adapted for federal lands settings [26
]. Nair et al. analyze the functioning of a large-scale bicycle sharing system in Paris to provide insights for policy makers [27
]. Some quantitative studies have taken a closer look at bike-sharing safety and the repositioning problem [28
]. However, there are few empirical studies to comprehensively explore the externalities of bike-sharing. Theoretically speaking, bike-sharing programs would have impacts on public transportation, transport congestion, energy use, the environment, and personal health. Limited by essential data, in this paper, we only attempt to quantitatively explore the externalities of bike-sharing on the economy, fuel use, harmful emissions, and health in Beijing, China. The study contributes to a better comprehension of the externalities of bike-sharing, and provides empirical evidence for the impacts of bike-sharing. The findings will be important and useful for urban transportation policies.
This paper estimates economy, environment, and health externalities of a bike-sharing program in Beijing. In the last two years, bike-sharing, used with mobile apps, has been prominent in Chinese cities. The online bike-sharing service is different in the following ways: customers can easily locate and unlock shared bikes using mobile apps on a smart phone; shared bikes can be rented and returned to any public area instead of one fixed location. Different online bike-sharing platforms in China are distinguished by color. Of the 20 largest bike-share programs in the world, all but four are in China. Therefore, China is ideal for exploring and analyzing the externalities of bike-sharing.
This paper is organized into three main sections. First, the framework of this paper and the methods used to estimate the externalities of bike-sharing are introduced. Next, key findings are described. Finally, the results are summarized and some implications are provided.
3. Estimation Results
In this study, we estimate the externalities of the bike-sharing program in Beijing in terms of the supplement effect, the substitution effect, and the health effect. To estimate the supplement effect of bike-sharing, the first step was to estimate the change in commute time for office workers, which is calculated on the basis of the difference between riding speed and walking speed. Our result, estimated by Equation (1
), shows that each worker who uses the bike-sharing service saves an average of 8 min per day. In this paper, we use the average distance of commuting and average bike riding speed published by Beijing Municipal Commission of Transport. It is noteworthy that this method may underestimate the result if we consider congestion. This extra time has an impact upon economic growth and efficiency. According to [33
], leisure time had a weak negative effect on the economy of China before 2011. However, an approximate quadratic curve has been found to suit the relationship between leisure time and Chinese economic development. After 1996, leisure time had a positive effect on the economy [33
]. In addition, the results of the negative effect are based on the period 1980–2011 and 1994–2011, respectively. In recent years, China has seen rapid development, so we have reasons to believe that leisure time had a positive effect on the economy of China in 2015. Therefore, we estimate the supplement effect under three different modes: the U.S. mode, the Danish mode, and the Japanese mode. The estimation results show that the per capita GDP of Beijing would increase by RMB55.72 yuan, and the total GDP of Beijing would increase by about RMB1.20 billion yuan in the American model. Following the Danish template, Beijing’s per capita GDP would increase by RMB27.41 yuan, and GDP would increase by about RMB592.25 million yuan. Moreover, in the Japanese model, the per capita GDP of Beijing would increase by RMB15.63 yuan, and the GDP would increase by RMB337.87 million yuan. This estimation shows that a bike-sharing program can have a great positive effect on the city’s economic development.
As per Equations (4
), the substitution effect of bike-sharing was estimated by calculating changes in energy and emissions. Results indicate that, when the demand for personal car use is partly replaced by bike-sharing, energy consumption and air pollutant emissions (emission quantities and concentrations) both decline correspondingly. To be more specific, compared with the baseline year 2015, if 75% of the kilometers traveled by bicycle replaced that amount of kilometers traveled by cars, energy consumption would be reduced by nearly 225.06 thousand tons. Furthermore, the emission of
from road transport in Beijing would decrease by nearly 616.04 thousand tons, and emissions of
would decrease by 22.50, 58.64, and 1586.66 tons, respectively. The reduced amount of
emissions would both total 10.35 tons. These results are displayed in Table 3
. The negative in Table 3
means that, compared with 2015, in the scenario where car driving is partly replaced by bike-sharing, energy consumption and air pollutant emissions decline correspondingly. We can also see that the concentration of
would decrease by 2.539
, respectively. The reduced levels of
are relatively small, i.e., 0.283
, respectively. The results indicate that the bike-sharing program of Beijing has a positive environmental effect.
In addition, we also estimate the public health benefits of bike-sharing in Beijing. The results show that bike-sharing has a positive effect on public health. Table 4
presents the reductions of fatal and non-fatal outcomes and of the economic costs resulting from the reduction of pollutant emissions. It is important to emphasize that the reductions in mortalities and hospital admissions induced by
are greater than those from
, confirming the great severity of fine particulate matter on public health. For the corresponding health costs, it is estimated that the economic losses would decrease by about RMB2420.57 million yuan. Most of the total cost reduction is due to reduced concentrations of
. These estimates provide empirical support for the much greater importance of fine particulate matter. In addition, cycling can increase physical activity, which is good for public health [46
]. Because of the limitation of data, in this paper, we do not calculate the health effect reduced from the increased activity. However, we can note that, even without considering the increased activity, the bike-sharing program has a positive effect on public health.
In all, bike-sharing dramatically decreases traffic, reduces energy consumption, decreases the emissions of harmful gases, improves public health, and promotes economic growth. The numerical estimations of the supplement effect, the substitution effect, and the health effect shown in this paper show that the bike-sharing program has substantial positive externalities.
Bike-sharing has expanded rapidly throughout the world in recent years. Bike-sharing programs are designed to meet the increasing travel demand and to reduce the corresponding negative externalities of personal cars. However, the impacts of bike-sharing in the implementation process have been unclear. This study attempts to quantitatively explore the externalities of the bike-sharing program of Beijing on the economy, fuel consumption, the environment, and public health. The results provide empirical evidence for the impacts of bike-sharing across the world, and provide important and useful information for urban transportation policies.
Overall, our study finds that the bike-sharing programs have positive externalities. According to our estimation, the supplement effect, the substitution effect, and the health effect resulting from bike-sharing programs are all positive. Specifically, bike-sharing programs can help residents save time, which further promotes the economic development of the city. In our study, we estimated the supplement effect of bike-sharing, as a connection to other modes of urban traffic. Our results show that bike-sharing in Beijing can help each worker save an average of 8 min per day. This additional time can increase the total GDP of Beijing by about RMB1.20 billion, 592.25 million, and 337.87 million yuan according to American, Danish, and Japanese models, respectively. In addition, under a scenario where 75% of kilometers traveled by bicycle replaces that amount of kilometers traveled via personal vehicle in Beijing, fuel consumption is reduced by 225.06 thousand tons. Accordingly, air pollutant emissions and concentrations both decline (Table 3
), which constitutes a further positive impact on public health. Our results show that bike-sharing would decrease health costs by about RMB2420.57 million yuan. However, it is important to note that, in our study, we only estimate the impact of bike-sharing on office workers, not all urban residents. Moreover, we do not consider the health impact of increased activity resulting from increased bike usage. Therefore, the estimation would undervalue the impacts of bike-sharing.
In summary, the results gained from this paper provide a better understanding of the externalities of bike-sharing programs. We found that bike-sharing programs have positive externalities on the economy, energy use, the environment, and public health. Although bike-sharing programs have some negative externalities, such as bicycle maintenance and management, we believe that the negative externalities are controllable. The findings of this paper can provide empirical evidence for policy makers in urban communities that want to explore bicycle-sharing systems. In general, bike-sharing programs can play a critical role in the process of urban transportation development. Moreover, the externalities of bike-sharing are not limited to aspects of the economy, the environment, and health. Bike-sharing is also helpful for urban congestion, noise pollution, etc. Therefore, ongoing research in areas such as congestion, noise pollution, social benefits, and safety is still needed.