Intuitively, you’d think the more alternatives to single-occupant autos, the less crowded the streets and the safer for bicyclists. It ain’t necessarily so, a new study warns. “Shared ride services such as UberPOOL, Uber Express POOL and Lyft Shared Rides, while touted as reducing traffic, in fact add mileage to city streets,” states The New Automobility: Lyft, Uber & the Future of American Cities, a report from Schaller Consulting of New York City, a transportation consulting firm (http://www.schallerconsult.com/rideservices/automobility.htm).
The trouble with shared ride services: while you’d think they’d get people out of their own cars; 60 percent of users are forgoing riding bikes, walking, taking public transit or staying home. This means more cars on the street and less safety for those who are bicycling, or so the study suggests. The catch is that people find the shared autos more comfortable, convenient and faster than the other modes – but not so for driving themselves or taking a taxi.
Only 12-24 percent of shared ride users would have walked or biked instead, according to surveys in large cities, including Denver. And the study warns that if driverless cars catch on, they will provide another alternative and could make the roads even less safe and pleasant for bicyclists.
On the other hand, in some cases, people may take a shared ride and at another time of the day use bikeshare, since they probably don’t have an auto with them.