Earlier this month, pro-bicycling nonprofit PeopleforBikes released a report detailing American bicycling participation. The report is significant because it examines bicycle riding of any kind, by anyone, not just recreational riders or transportation use.
The report found that 34 percent of Americans (103.7 million people) rode a bicycle in the past year, and of those, about half rode twice a month or less, and 30 percent did so on fewer than six days total. While these numbers might sound dismal, the participation rate is higher than previously estimated in other surveys, which is encouraging. And the Americans that ride, but not often, represent the target demographic the organization wants to reach to increase participation rates.
The objectives of the report (compiled by Breakaway Research Group) were to:
Out of those who didn’t ride, only 12 percent have never ridden. Twenty-nine percent said they predict they will ride in the future, but 44 percent said they will not ride in the future. When riding for transportation, going to social events and running errands are the two most commonly reported types of trips.
These infrastructure obstacles impact young adults more than older adults. However, 31 percent of total participants said that they are satisfied with the bike infrastructure available to them in their areas, and 29 percent reported that they have no difficulty combining bicycling and public transportation in their towns.
A higher percentage of men than women reported riding, and more men than women ride for both recreation and transportation. Among riders, those in the south rode more frequently, while more riders in the west rode for transportation. Participants in the northeast were the most likely to never have ridden a bike at all and were least likely to in the future.
The most frequent riders have annual incomes of less than $20,000 and also ride for both recreation and transportation the most frequently.
With this data, PeopleforBikes can focus the right efforts on specific regions and not only encourage more riders to participate, but also increase the frequency with which riders take to the streets.
“Accurate and detailed information on bicycling participation is essential in evaluating our overall work and the effectiveness of our programs and key projects,” said Charlie Cooper, vice president of membership and development at PeopleForBikes.
Their Green Lanes Project saw a 75 percent increase in bike use on a street after a protected lane was installed, where 96 percent of people reported feeling safer riding. To date, the organization is responsible for implementing 191 protected bike lanes and consulting with 12 cities. In 2014, the organization awarded 34 grants (totaling $330,340), leveraged $22.5 million in bike funding and provided $824,761 in cash support for other bike nonprofits.
Traveling PeopleforBikes goodwill ambassadors visited 27 states and reached 433,000 people at more than 65 events. The organization also helped launch three bike-sharing programs in major cities.
Image credit: Kamyar Adl creative commons license
Andrea Newell has more than ten years of experience designing, developing and writing ERP e-learning materials for large corporations in several industries. She was a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and a contract consultant for companies like IBM, BP, Marathon Oil, Pfizer, and Steelcase, among others. She is a writer and former editor at TriplePundit and a social media blog fellow at The Story of Stuff Project. She has contributed to In Good Company (Vault's CSR blog), Evolved Employer, The Glass Hammer, EcoLocalizer and CSRwire. She is a volunteer at the West Michigan Environmental Action Council and lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org and @anewell3p on Twitter.