Measuring how America rides

March 02, 2015

Our new report on bicycling participation

When PeopleForBikes launched 16 years ago as Bikes Belong, we established the mission of "getting more people riding bikes, more often." This goal remains central in all of our work today.

As we've grown, and as we've evaluated the progress of our key projects, we've often been frustrated by not being able to confidently answer two of the most basic bicycling questions: How many Americans ride bikes today? What are the key trends in participation?

We've struggled with these answers because of the limitations of available participation research. Some surveys have focused exclusively on recreational bike riding. Others have honed in on bike commuting. What's been missing is a broad-based survey that addresses participation in all types of bicycling in the context of an overall questionnaire that asks a reasonable number of questions.

Today, we are pleased to announce that we have that. PeopleForBikes commissioned Breakaway Research, led by respected bicycle researcher Dr. Jennifer Boldry, to conduct the U.S. Bicycling Participation Benchmarking Report during the fall of 2014. The methodology, full report and FAQs are published here. Key findings include:

  • Thirty-four percent of Americans ages 3+ rode a bicycle at least one day in the past year.
  • Of those who rode a bicycle, 30% rode five days or fewer.
  • Those who rode for transportation are much more likely to have done so to get to and from social, recreation, or leisure activities (70%) than to have commuted to and from work or school (46%).
  • Forty-eight percent of adults in the U.S. don’t have access to an operational bicycle at home.
  • Fifty-four percent of adults in the U.S. perceive bicycling as a convenient way to get from one place to another and 53% would like to ride more often. However, 52% worry about being hit by a car and 46% say they would be more likely to ride a bicycle if motor vehicles and bicycles were physically separated.

See the report

One important point: while this study establishes several new benchmarks for U.S. bicycling participation, we think the value of this research goes far beyond the raw numbers. Respondents told us much more than if they ride and how often. We learned a lot about their bicycling aspirations and fears.

We are looking forward to conducting this survey again in a couple years (and again in two years beyond that) to start to develop meaningful trend lines on bicycling participation.

We welcome your feedback on this project. Stay tuned for detailed reports, infographics and fact sheets on findings from this research.

Thanks for your support,

Tim Blumenthal, president, PeopleForBikes

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