Is Bicycling Contagious? Effects of Bike Share Stations and Activity on System Membership and General Population Cycling

Recent working paper

Nice Ride Membership Map
Nice Ride Membership Map

This paper presents new evidence about the role of bike share systems in travel behavior using a diffusion of innovation framework. We hypothesize that bike share systems have a contagion or spillover effect on (𝐻1) propensity to start using the system and (𝐻2) propensity to bicycle among the general population. We test the first hypothesis by modeling membership growth as a function of both system expansion and the existing membership base. We test the second hypothesis by using bike share activity levels near one’s home in a model of household-level bicycle participation and trip frequency.  Our study shows mixed results. Bike share membership growth appears to be driven, in a small part, by a contagion effect of existing bike share members nearby. However, we did not identify a significant relationship between proximity to bike share and cycling participation or frequency among the general population. The findings hold  implications for marketing, infrastructure investments, and future research about bike share innovation diffusion and spillover effects.

KEYWORDS: Bike Share; Diffusion of Innovation; Travel Behavior

Minneapolis cyclists battle for a place in traffic | City Pages

I am briefly quoted by Jesse Marx of City Pages in his long piece: “Minneapolis cyclists battle for a place in traffic”

Motorists tend to complain at public planning meetings that fewer car lanes means more traffic. But David Levinson, a transportation expert at the U of M, says this has not proven to be the case. Giving more space to bikes only entices more bicyclists to come onto the road — what he calls the “virtuous circle.”

As usual, don’t read the comments.

Rural Netherlands

The Netherlands is of course biking country, and not just in the cities. It is perhaps surprising that such a dense country still has so much agriculture, but it does. Within a few minutes bike ride from the center of the city we are amongst farms. We took a bike tour of the nearby countryside. While this was in general as lovely as Delft,

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there were some rough spots, like this cycle track adjacent to the motorway.

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But much of it looked like this, actual farms (which is only surprising when you realize how close it is to Rotterdam, the Hague, and Delft),

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There are nice villages along the canals

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with affordable ice cream shops there as well

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And helpful navigation signs are usually there to help the bicyclists navigate.

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We also took a bike ferry (pulley system) to cross a canal. So I can add a new mode of transport to my collection.

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The authorities were nice enough to put chairs every so often so riders can relax.

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Photos of our bike trip to the Delft countryside can be seen on Flickr.

Houten – bike city

Houten plaats OpenTopo

Houten, building on an old settlement, was initially planned as a city of 30,000 people where local transportation by bicycle is prioritized. Constructed from the 1960s onward as a reliever for Utrecht, it is connected by a short rail line with two stops in the town. Cars cannot cross the town, but can circumnavigate on a ring road (see attached map). The industrial and commercial sector is in the southwest of town, with good highway access. Though there is a good balance of jobs and workers, most residents work outside the town and most workers commute in, which is not surprising given its good connection with the rest of the Randstad. The architecture and feel of the place is otherwise very familiar to anyone who has visited a planned US, French, or UK new town from the same era (without the single family homes, most of the buildings are townhouses or apartments). Some 89 photos, mostly of Houten, can be seen on Flickr.

We toured it on bike one afternoon during the WSTLUR conference. (You may spot famous transportation educators in the photos.) Thanks much to the local officials who gave us the tour. These are my observations:

1. The center of town is the main train station (which was recently rebuilt). The number of tracks were increased and the station was elevated so it was easier to cross east-west.

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2. Under the train station is an enormous bicycle parking facility: Fietstransferium.

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3. There are many bike paths through town. Small humps are used to discourage cars, which are prohibited, and motor scooters and mopeds, which are as well, but seem common.

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4. The best, most vibrant part of the town is the old town, indicating there is much planners need to learn about recreating places.

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5. There are some shared roads, though most prohibit motors officially.

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6. The newest part of town is centered on Castellium, inspired by a Roman town.

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7. One development is inspired a Norwegian Fjord town

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Some of my colleagues felt the town too “sterile” which is the rap given to new towns, and especially suburbs, everywhere. I don’t know what people are looking for, hypodermic needles on the street? It is of course a suburb of Utrecht, so the core city functions – especially entertainment and culture, will agglomerate there, as cities are where the childless youth seek to find mates. To conduct pop psychology and apply two of the Big Five personality traits this is a classic case of a trading off Openness to new ideas, which involves exposure to risk, and cities, and Neuroticism, which is fear based, and wants to minimize risk, and seeks more controlled environments (loosely, planned communities or suburbs), which I suspect at some level is in part correlated with age and parenthood.

Dinkytown Greenway: Bluff Street vs. St. Anthony Main |

Bluff Creek Park at I-35W

The most important new connection between downtown Minneapolis and points East since the Green Line is about to open. I speak of course of the connection to the tunnel under I-35W at Bluff Street Park.

Bikeways UMN

Riding a NiceRide bicycle from Williamson Hall, I went from the University to the Dinkytown Greenway, and crossed the Number 9 Bridge.

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There I found myself riding across the orange plastic netting which had collapsed to the ground, went into the tunnel under I-35W at Bluff Street Park.

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[I assume they (whoever “they” are) didn’t want me to ride across the collapsed orange netting, but on the other hand, someone went right ahead of me, and no one said “boo”. Is there a law against riding across collapsed orange netting?]

After the tunnel I rode on the completed sidewalk (rather than the still under construction bike path) and found myself in the Mill District near Izzy’s Ice Cream and the Guthrie Theater. Who knew the University and Downtown were so close? [You can see the area for the soon-to-be-ribbon-cut tunnel in the pink box on the adjoining map]

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I then moved over to West River Parkway, and rode to the Stone Arch Bridge, and crossed the River again. There I found myself in St. Anthony Main. This is both really close to downtown and really close to the University, but the connection with the latter is weaker than it should be.

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I rode from St. Anthony Main to try to rejoin the Greenway. At first there is what seems like a private (though paved) road or driveway.

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But then I was back in the early 20th century, on about 100m of railroad tracks and dirt road. Google thinks its a street. Perhaps it is. It just isn’t paved. I felt I wasn’t supposed to be there.

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Where it soon meets up with the Dinkytown Greenway.

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I then continued on the Greenway until its awkward connection with Dinkytown,

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I rode along some of the lower volume streets there, and dropped the bike at the local NiceRide station. (University and 4th both need Cycletracks).

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Seriously, a bikeway between the University and St. Anthony Main is technically such an easy thing to fix. (I know, railroads), and it is appalling that such an obvious connection remains missing from the network. Doing something in the Dinkytown Trench was Voted in 2012 as Best Opportunity to Do Something Useful. While a section of the Dinkytown Greenway was completed, much of the Ditch remains an uncaptured opportunity. Granary Road has been discussed for years now, where is it? We could run a mostly grade-separated transitway in the Ditch (and along the Campus Transitway) connecting Downtown, Northeast, St. Anthony Main, the University (both campuses), and Roseville (see the northeast Purple Line here).

Getting back to the immediate question, connecting the U with St. Anthony Main via a trail, really why do we make such simple things so difficult for ourselves? There is an unused corridor. There is an unmet need. I don’t understand why the whole thing (Granary Road +) needs to cost $63M when local roads can be built for $2M per mile and paths for $0.2M per mile, and this is hardly 30 miles. (Note Bluff Street Trail was $3M, also quite pricey.) I have long talked about how transportation costs too much, but this is such a rich example. Cost is used as an excuse not to do anything, but the cost itself is never challenged. Surely we can do better.

NiceRide records the whole trip was 29 minutes.

I promise not to turn this into a bike blog, since there are so many in Minnesota already.

Flickr sets here and here.

Bike to Work Day: Progress in Minnesota by Miles to Go

Greg Lindsey writes about: Bike to Work Day: Progress in Minnesota by Miles to Go

But we only need look across municipal boundaries to know we had better put more energy into encouraging bicycling than into celebration. Bicycle commute rates in St. Paul remain below 2% less than half the Minneapolis rate, and rates in most suburban, exurban, and rural communities remain even lower. And the story remains essentially the same for all types of bicycle trips. Jessi Schoner, a doctoral candidate in the Department of Civil Engineering, is analyzing non-motorized mode shares for all trips recorded the Metropolitan Council’s recent Travel Behavior Inventory. Her analyses show that bicycling remains an urban phenomenon, with the share of all trips taken by bicycling highest in Minneapolis, followed by St. Paul, and then suburban and outlying communities. Why is this so? Better infrastructure no doubt is part of the reason, but there likely are other reasons, including housing patterns, access to employment, socio-demographic factors, and culture. Additional research is needed.

One day of the Divvy bicycle-share system

Published on Mar 6, 2014
This video (best watched in high-definition (HD 720p)) shows all the bicycle trips made in one day in Chicago’s Divvy bicycle-share system, 2013. Each circle represents a Divvy bicycle station. Larger circles indicate a greater number of trips beginning and ending at that station. The color of the circle indicates the proportion of trip arrivals and departures: yellow means more arrivals, pink means more departures, and white means an equal mix of both. Watch the pattern of colors in the morning rush hour.

The number of arrivals and departures at each station was calculated for every five-minute interval of the day and was averaged over the number of days that the station was active in 2013.

This video was produced by Colin J Stewart (, an urban-planning graduate student at Transportation Research at McGill (TRAM: Check out my previous video of Montreal’s public transit system:…

The music in this video (“The Koto Chill”) was written by Zircon ( If you like this track, check out his other work.

Data was provided by Divvy Bikes ( as part of their 2014 data challenge. Big thanks to Divvy!

Which Station? Access Trips and Bike Share Route Choice


Recent working paper:

Bike share systems are an emerging technology in the United States and worldwide, but little is known about how people integrate bike share trip segments into their daily travel. Through this research, we attempt to fill this knowledge gap by studying how people navigate from place to place using the Nice Ride Minnesota bike share system in Minneapolis and St. Paul. We develop a theoretical model for bike share station choice inspired by research on transit route choice literature. We then model people’s choice of origin station using a conditional logit model to evaluate their sensitivity to time spent walking, deviation from the shortest path, and a set of station amenity and neighborhood control variables. As expected, people prefer to use stations that do not require long detours out of the way to access. However, commuters and non-work travelers differ in how they value the walking portion of their trip, and what station amenities and neighborhood features increase a station’s utility. The results from this study will be important for planners who need a better understanding of bike share user behavior in order to design or optimize their system. The findings also provide a strong foundation for future study about comprehensive route choice analysis of this new bicycling technology.