Does Uber impact bike-share usage? Evidence from a natural experiment in Budapest

By Rayla Bellis

Significant research has gone into understanding the relationships between different urban transportation options and whether they support or compete with each other. It seems reasonable to think ride-hailing services like Uber might compete with bike sharing in urban areas, but findings from a recent study in Budapest suggest the opposite.

The researchers evaluated the effect on bike-sharing systems in Budapest following Uber’s involuntary departure in response to Hungarian legislation passed in 2016. The results show that suspending Uber service caused a significant decrease in bike-share usage among frequent users with passes (85 percent of all users), suggesting a complementary relationship between the two services. This decrease was largest on weekdays—6.5 percent—particularly during morning and afternoon peak periods. Since the majority of bike-share users in Budapest are pass-holders, Uber’s exit caused an overall decrease in bike-sharing in the city.

By contrast, the study found that Uber’s exit increased usage among individuals using bike-share with single tickets (15 percent of users), suggesting that single-use riders were choosing between bike-share and Uber before Uber’s departure. For example, a tourist who would previously have debated between purchasing a bike-share pass and using Uber might choose to bike now that Uber is not an option. The largest increase among these ad hoc riders occurred on weekends: 23 percent.

The authors note that previous research has found a significant demographic overlap between bike-share users and Uber users: young, urban, college-educated, and higher-income individuals, many of whom likely have access to private cars. Their findings suggest frequent riders were using a combination of different modes of transportation to make their daily trips. Regular bike-share riders might be choosing to drive personal cars instead in Uber’s absence, decreasing the need or desire to bike, though more research is needed.

As the authors note, their results shed light on potential unintended consequences of banning ride-sharing services that are worth considering in policy decisions.

Rayla Bellis is a Program Manager at SSTI.