Trips made by bike double since 1990
A few months ago, we explained what “advocacy” means. Now it’s time to bring up another technical term you’ll hear bike supporters tossing around: “mode share.” Mode share is a transportation term for the percentage of trips made in a certain way. We use it to describe how many people are cycling, driving, walking, or using transit. By measuring and tracking mode share, we can see trends in bicycle use.
16 years ago, the United States Department of Transportation set two goals:
1) Double the biking and walking mode share from 8% to 16%
2) Reduce the number of bicyclists and pedestrians killed or injured in traffic crashes by 10%
Last week, the USDOT released a report looking back at those goals. It found that bicycling and walking currently have a 12% mode share—just halfway towards the goal. However, because the total number of trips has been growing with the country’s population, bicycling saw a bigger increase that this number may suggest: from 1.7 billion trips in 1990 to 4 billion trips in 2009.
The USDOT report also found that the number of bicyclists killed decreased by 12% between 1994 and 2008. This sounds even better when you take into account the doubling of bicycle trips. Researchers have found that this happens routinely—the more people who ride bikes, the safer bicycling gets, because motorists are more aware of cyclists. It’s a documented phenomenon called “safety in numbers.”
The best part is that when bicycling gets safer, even more people ride bikes! It’s a convenient cycle for cycling. We still have a ways to go to reach the mode share and safety levels of bike-friendly countries like the Netherlands. Still, America’s cycling snowball has finally started to roll down the hill. Peopleforbikes.org is going to make it roll a little faster. If you haven't signed the pledge, we hope you will. And, please spread the word to any riders you know who want to see the U.S. become a more bike-friendly place.
For a quick, easy-to-understand overview of trends in U.S. bicycle use and federal bike investments, read Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood's Fast Lane blog post from June 16.