A Guest Post by Zach O’Brien
Biking has many advantages over driving a car and biking obviously improves one’s own health, but did you know that biking also increases a city's well-being? In the fall of 2007, when New York City put in their first protected bike lane (a lane separating bike lanes from car traffic using permanent barriers, such as Jersey barriers or medians), the stores along the bike route reported a 49% increase in sales versus a 3% increase in the rest of the city.
According to the U.S. Bicycling Participation Benchmarking Study Report from 2015, 15% of all Americans (45.1 million Americans) had ridden a bike at least once a year for transportation purposes. That might appear to be a high percentage until one delves a little deeper. Of that 15%, only 11% of those people rode their bikes to work 104 days a year or more. If we consider this, only 1.65% (4.96 million) people in America are committed to cycling as a means of transit.
How would these US biking statistics compare to another country? The Netherlands may be an extreme example, but a good role model nonetheless. According to the Special Eurobarometer 422a Quality of Transport report from 2014, when asked about their preferred modes of transport, Netherlanders used their bicycles 36% of the time. The United States has a long way to go to catch up to these bicyclists!
The U.S. Department of Transportation reported in 2010 that 86.1% of people in the United States used cars as their main means for commuting. However, the story is a bit different for dense urban cities that were established before the widespread use of cars. In these areas, the percentage of people who commute by car is far less than in other areas of the country. Dense urban areas have different modes of commuting than their less-urban counterparts. In 2010, the New York City Department of City Planning reported that fewer than 5% of the people who work in Manhattan drive a car to work. While cars remain undeniably important to the transportation needs of much of the US, dense urban areas work differently. Many other large cities in the US have similar patterns when it comes to commuting.
A promising trend is developing; from 2000-2009 in Chicago, New York City, Boston, Portland, Seattle, San Francisco, and Washington DC, the relative number of people who commuted by car decreased from 6.0 to 12.7%. At the same time, the number of people who cycled increased from 50.2 to 230.0%, maybe we have headed in the right direction after all!