From Mobike to no bike in Greater Manchester: using the capabilities approach to explore Europe's first wave of dockless bike share

Graeme Sherriff*, Mags Adams, Luke Blazejewski, Nicholas Davies, Daiga Kamerade

*Corresponding author for this work

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Globally, bike share schemes are an element of a rapidly changing urban transport landscape. Whilst many docked schemes are now embedded in cities around the world, the recent explosion of dockless systems provides an opportunity to evaluate claims that this form of shared mobility has the potential to alleviate common barriers to cycling, relieve congestion, boost low carbon travel, get people active, and reduce social exclusion. Drawing on a mixed methods study of 2270 online survey respondents and 27 interviews, all living in, working in or visiting Greater Manchester during a trial of dockless bike share, we explore the ways in which the technological, spatial and practical configuration of bike share schemes relate to a city's infrastructure and existing cycling practices. We question assertions that bike share provision necessarily results in increased rates of cycling and enhanced social inclusion.

By using a capabilities approach and utlilising the concept of ‘conversion factors’ to describe the differing capacities or opportunities that people have to convert resources at their disposal into ‘capabilities’ or ‘functionings’, we show how the practice of bike sharing can influence a population's propensity to cycle, as well as how bike share interacts with established barriers to cycling. We find that many established barriers to cycling remain relevant, especially environmental factors, and that bike share creates its own additional challenges.

We conclude that bike share operators must recognise the role of personal and social conversion factors more explicitly and be sensitive to the social and physical geography of cities, rather than assuming that a ‘one size fits all’ approach is adequate. To do this they should engage more closely with existing bodies, including transport authorities and local authorities, in co-creating bike share systems. Using the capabilities approach enables us to identify ways in which it could be made relevant and accessible to a more diverse population.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102744
JournalJournal of Transport Geography
Early online date26 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Cycling
  • Sustainable Transport
  • Capability Approach
  • active travel
  • Sharing Economy


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