Public health institutions, trade associations, and advocacy organizations regularly report on recreational cycling or transportation but People for Bikes (PfB) looked at cycling participation in America across all age groups and more reasons for riding than is traditionally included. The top-line results: Almost 104 million Americans rode a bicycle at least once in 2014 and that 45 million of them used a bike for transportation over that same time period. There are roughly 318 million people in the US, according to current US Census estimates.
The study, in the form of an online survey, took place in November and December of 2014 and is impressive in size: over 16,000 adult respondents, who reported on their own cycling behavior and that of almost 9,000 children in their households. The respondents were selected as a representation of general population. The study has a +/- .7 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence interval.
Past the headliner of total Americans who ride, there are some other findings, both encouraging and troubling.
Most cyclists (54 percent) were occasional riders only—fewer than twice a month, which dragged down the median to 20 rides a year. But the committed among us are truly committed: 32 percent of respondents rode between 25 to 103 times last year and 14 percent rode 104 or more times.
Of the adult respondents who said they did not ride a bike in the past year, 29 percent said they intended to in the future. However, some 44 percent of those who didn't ride don't intend to; these are the so-called "never evers," some of whom never learned to ride a bike.
Some 48 percent of respondents didn't even have access to an "operational" bicycle. By comparison, according to a US Census study in 2013, about 73 percent of American homes have broadband connections.
Among those who rode for transportation, riders were far more likely to bike to and from leisure activities (70 percent) than commute (46 percent).
The reason more Americans don't ride probably won't surprise you: perceived safety. Even though 54 percent of respondents think cycling is a good means of transportation, almost as many (52 percent) said they worried about getting hit by a motor vehicle.
Some 46 percent of respondents said they'd be more likely to ride if bicycles were physically separated from cars (an approach long used in parts of Europe and which PfB is pursuing with its Green Lanes Project).
This is People for Bikes' first-ever attempt to comprehensively measure cycling participation in the US, so the results don't include much in the way of comparison figures to show whether cycling is increasing or decreasing in popularity. But PfB plans to repeat the study at least every three years, which will, over time, give them a much more nuanced understanding of cycling trends in the US.
Interested in more info? You can download the full People for Bikes report here.
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