Who are using urban bikes in Helsinki?

The users of the popular local bike-sharing system in Helsinki are mainly young adults and living in the downtown shows my recently finished master’s thesis. Almost 80 % of the trips were made by the users who were living in a postal area with at least one bike station in 2017, which shows how the service has been embraced especially by those living in the central ares of Helsinki.

The new bike-sharing season is here again and the system coverage are has expanded In Helsinki! Bike-sharing systems have become popular and attracted wide interest in Finland and elsewhere in recent years. Many cities have employed shared bikes, which aim to provide new mobility option for citizens. Shared bikes are also strongly linking to targets to increase the share of sustainable travel modes in cities, which partly explains their enthusiastic reception by many.

My master’s thesis titled as  ”Bike sharing as part of urban mobility in Helsinki – A user perspective”, which examined bike-sharing users is now accepted and published. The work, accepted with the highest grade, focused on bike-sharing users, usage patterns and how equally the system is serving the citizens. The aim of the work was to bring new information to support planning and development of the bike-sharing systems in Helsinki and elsewhere. I used a data set provided by Helsinki Region Transport and City Bike Finland, which contained all the bike-sharing trips (~1.5 million) from 2017. Before the data analysis, I had systematically reviewed almost 800 scientific articles focusing on bike sharing.

Internationally, bike-sharing system have been hugely popular and in the public discussion, the systems are often covered positively. Meanwhile, there has been critique in the scientific literature that shared bikes would only be serving certain population groups. This contradiction got me interested in to examine the local users in Helsinki more closely.

The study showed that in Helsinki, the use of bike-sharing system has been internationally high. Young adults are emphasized in the user base and especially when comparing by the number of trips, male users are over represented. Compared to regular cycling, the profile of bike-sharing users is less diverse than among all cyclists in Helsinki. Most of use is generated by those, who have a bike-sharing station in their neighborhood. The usage patterns of these users are also different compared to those who are living outside the station coverage area. For example, the users living outside the area have significantly higher shares of potential public transport integrated trips on average. Use activity and the subscription type were also found to be important factors shaping usage patterns.

The study also showed that bike-sharing systems have been actively and extensively studied. However, the study areas seemed to be concentrated to cities where bike-sharing data were available. This observation highlights the role and the need for open data in studying new mobility modes.

The upcoming summer will be interesting from my results’ perspective now when the bike-sharing system area in Helsinki expands. It remains to be seen whether the over-represented user groups were only more eager to quickly embrace the new system in 2017 or whether the same usage patterns still prevail after the expansion. From the equity perspective, the bike-sharing system will be now available to a larger group of citizens better than before. Young adults have found the system well, but it is important to pay attention that shared bikes and cycling are being promoted among the whole population to better advance and increase their role as part of sustainable urban mobility.

Elias Willberg

The full work can be found from here: MasterThesis_EliasWillberg

Animated visualization of the system dynamics can be found from here https://blogs.helsinki.fi/accessibility/2018/05/18/one-day-of-city-bikes-in-helsinki/

One thought on “Who are using urban bikes in Helsinki?

  1. Pingback: Congratulations Claudia, Hertta and Elias for the City of Helsinki Master’s thesis award! – Digigeolab blog

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