This decade is turning out to be a golden one for bike sharing, with new schemes based on Paris's Velib program recently popping up in London, Washington DC, Miami Beach and Boston.
Now, such programs have been given an extra boost by a new study published in the British Medical Journal which suggests public bike sharing initiatives offer a range of benefits to the health of a city's population.
The authors looked at the Bicing scheme, a bike-sharing scheme first established in the Spanish city of Barcelona in 2007.
They questioned over 180,000 Bicing subscribers in an attempt to pinpoint the risks and benefits of using a bike-share scheme compared with travelling by car in the urban environment, to see if one was significantly more advantageous to health.
The doctors found that while the risk of road traffic injury and air pollution exposure rose fractionally among Bicing users, it was far offset by the improvement in health among members of the scheme - saving some 12 lives every year.
Were the average age of a Bicing user to be higher, said the researchers, even more deaths would be avoided - 20.55 every year assuming a mean age of 48 years for the average users.
"The health benefits of physical activity from cycling using the bicycle sharing scheme (Bicing) in Barcelona, Spain, were large compared with the risks from inhalation of air pollutants and road traffic incidents," concluded the study.
"Public bicycle sharing schemes can help improve public health."
Read the research: http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d4521.full