Biking the Distance… In 30 Minutes or Less: The Impact of Cost and Location on Urban Bike Share Systems

Citi Bike

Those of us who commute to the PLOS San Francisco office have noticed the emergence of bike share stations cropping up along the San Francisco Bay and on the city’s main drag. And we’re not alone here in San Francisco: the picture above is from the New York City Department of Transportation’s bike share. Around the world, bike share systems, which aim to make bicycles available on a short-term basis to anyone, have experienced massive growth as cities work to decrease gas emissions and encourage people to stay active. However, not everyone is ready to forgo the convenience of four wheels for two just yet. To understand why more people haven’t made the switch from cars to bike share systems, the author of a recently published PLOS ONE paper delved into possible factors affecting our willingness to don a helmet and cycle the distance.

Using publically available data from Washington DC and Boston, Dr. Jurdak, an Australian researcher, conducted a series of statistical analyses designed to examine the impact of bike share system pricing and neighborhood layout on potential bikers. It turns out cost is a major factor for commuters and tourists alike, but distance is not. Although analyses showed a bias towards shorter trips with a tendency towards a peak of 6 minutes—averaging 13 minutes per trip—a sharp drop off occurred in the likelihood of trips right around 30 minutes.

Why the decline at around 30 minutes? In both Boston and Washington DC, trips under 30 minutes incurred no additional cost in the bike share pricing system. Registered users of the bike share, typically commuters, must pay an initial registration fee but have a grace period for all trips completed in less than 30 minutes. Trips extending beyond 30 minutes, however, incur additional fees. In other words, public bicyclers are looking to maximize the distance biked and time spent without incurring any additional cost. Researchers have labeled this as ‘cost sensitivity.’

Statistical analyses also demonstrated the same cost sensitivity in casual users, or those who do not have a monthly or annual membership, and who likely use the bike share system for tourism. However, instead of noting a decline in the likelihood of trips around 30 minutes, Dr. Jurdak found a decline for casual users at around 60 minutes (another price point).

On the other hand, despite sensitivity to cost, bikers appeared less dissuaded from bike trips based on neighborhood layout. Although stations in Boston were on average much closer to other nearby stations than in Washington DC, in general, the trip distribution for both cities was remarkably similar. Perhaps not surprisingly, the most popular routes taken in both Boston and Washington DC were relatively flat.

To encourage more people to cut the car usage and grab a rental bike, Dr. Jurdak recommends that cities consider incentivizing their constituents with what they care about: cost. Modified prices for bike rental during peak hours may decrease car traffic on congested roads; an extension of grace periods for biking difficult topology, like up a steep San Francisco hill, might encourage us to bike even though the clock is ticking to 30 minutes and an incurred rise in price. As cities look to evolve public transportation systems and increase responsible urban mobility, and as city dwellers look for cost-effective ways to get around, bike share programs continue to offer healthy solutions for all, even at 30 minutes or less.

For more on the effects bike share systems are having around the world, check out another recent PLOS ONE paper and the researchers’ blog post on bike webs, visualizations of bike share schemes.


Jurdak R (2013) The Impact of Cost and Network Topology on Urban Mobility: A Study of Public Bicycle Usage in 2 U.S. Cities. PLoS ONE 8(11): e79396. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079396

Image 1: Citi Bike Launch by New York City Department of Transportation

Policy Exceptions in RoMEO

Readers of this blog will have noticed the occasional notification of new exceptions that have been added to RoMEO.

But what are these exceptions and why are they important?

RoMEO has traditionally focussed on the general policies of publishers, those that cover the majority of their journals titles. However, some titles may have a different embargo period or use a Creative Commons License. Although, we have tried to impart this information under the General Conditions field, it has become cumbersome and still requires users to investigate themselves as to which embargo period applies to their journal of interest.

We started adding exceptions in November 2011, and are continuing the process as they are identified and we clarify the policy exceptions with publishers.

Some exceptions will cover only one journal title, others much more.

To date RoMEO lists a total of 59 exceptions, from 25 Publishers. We are still working through publishers we have identified as having possible exceptions and hope to add more in the future.

A list of the Exceptions added so far:

  • Akademie Ved Ceske Republiky, Knihovna
    • Knihy a dejiny [6/3/12]
  • American Medical Association
    • JAMA  [17/11/11]
  • American Society for Microbiology
    • mBio [26/4/12]
  • ASIS&T
    • Bulletin – [17/11/11]
    •  JASIS&T – [17/11/11]
  • American Society of Clinical Oncology
    • JCO [29/11/11]
    • JOP [29/11/11]
  • BMJ Publishing Group
    • BMJ [30/1/12]
    • BMj Open [18/4/12]
  • ediPUCRS
    • Analise [18/4/12]
    • BELT [18/4/12]
  • EDP Sciences
    • EDJ [26/4/12]
    • Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial [26/4/12]
  • Institut Français d’Etudes Andines (IFEA)
    • Bulletin de l’IFEA [23/3/12]
  • Laboratório Nacional de Energia e Geologia
    • Corrosão e Protecção de Materiais [13/12/11]
  • MIT Press
    • STM [17/11/11]
    •  Arts and Humanities [17/11/11]
    •  Economics [17/11/11]
  • Oxford University Press
    • Policy A – [16/11/11]
    • Policy A1 – [15/11/11]
    • Policy B – [16/11/11]
    • Policy B1 – [15/11/11]
    • Policy C –  [16/11/11]
    • Policy D – [15/11/11]
    • Policy E – [16/11/11]
    • Policy F – [15/11/11]
    • Policy G – [15/11/11]
    • Policy H – [15/11/11]
    • Policy I – [15/11/11]
    • Policy J – [15/11/11]
    • Policy K – [15/11/11]
    • Policy L – [15/11/11]
    • Policy M – [15/11/11]
    • Policy N – [16/11/11]
    • Policy O – [15/11/11]
    • Policy P [12/9/12]
    • Policy Q [12/9/12]
  •  Pion
    • i-Perception [10/5/12]
    • Perception [10/5/12]
  • Royal Society
    • Open Biology [19/7/12]
  • Taylor & Francis
    • SSH Titles [5/12/11]
    • STM Titles [5/12/11]
  • Taylor & Francis (Psychology Press)
    • STM Titles [5/12/11]
  • Taylor & Francis (Routledge)
    • LIS Titles [1/12/11]
    • SSH Titles [1/12/11]
    • STM Titles [1/12/11]
  • Universidad de Murcia [14/9/12]
    • Glosas Didacticas
  • Universidade de Brasilia
    • Attribution Non-Commercial  [17/9/12]
    • Attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivatives  [17/9/12]
    • Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike  [17/9/12]
  • Universite Paris 3, Institut des Hautes Etudes de l’Amérique Latine (IHEAL) [3/1/12]
    • Cahiers des Ameriques Latines
  • Univ Chig Press
    • Publications of the Astronomical Society of the Pacific [17/11/11]
  • Università degli Studi di Milano (University of Milan)
    • Attribution [17/4/12]
    • Share Alike [17/4/12]
    • Enthymema [17/4/12]
  • Uni of Texas Press
    • Cinema Journal [17/11/11]
  • Vittorio Klostermann
    • ZfBB [29/11/11]
  • Wildlife Society
    • Journal of Wildlife Management [18/4/12]