Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Americans ride bikes. Sometimes.

This is the news: apparently, in the country that  ruined its public transportation (), designed its cities for cars, considers mandatory helmets for everyone (at least in California) or fluorescent clothing (at least in Wyoming) and hardly ever punishes drivers who run over pedestrians (even in crosswalks), many people still ride bicycles. Sometimes.

It turns out that "34% of Americans age three or older rode a bike at least once in 2014", which equals to 103.7 million people. That's a big number. But before you start thinking about America as the next Denmark or Holland, keep in mind that the key words in that statement are "at least once". This means that those who thought once about buying a bike and tried one for 5 minutes in their local bike store, count too.
What's more interesting that 57% of all those people rode bikes for recreation in 2014, which leaves us with the other 43% who rode bikes for... transportation, I suppose (?). That accounts for 44.6 million people or 14.6% of all Americans, as long as you assume that 16,193 U.S. adults surveyed in the study are representative for the entire population.
I would be really happy if we really had 44.6 million regular bike commuters in the United States but unfortunately the study tells us that's the number of people who commuted "at least once" in 2014, which doesn't make them regular at all.
On top of that, "48% of U.S. adults do not have access to a bike at home, and 52% worry about being hit by a car while riding" and that clearly doesn't paint a pretty picture of the status of our bicycling nation.
Interestingly, in about the same time as this study was published, Slashdot did their own online poll that surveyed over 20,000 people. Results are below. It seems that there are two groups of cyclists in... let's say America (We don't really know where the surveyed people came from as the poll was done online and Slashdot is by no means representative to any population as its main readers are IT engineers, developers, scientists, etc.).
The first group are the people who never ride bicycles or do it very rarely (most likely for recreation). That is sadly 45% of all responses. The second group (29%) rides bikes everyday or at least a few times a week. Those will likely be either people who regularly ride bicycles for sport/recreation or simply commute to work.
Even though it seems that many Americans spend at least some time on bike throughout the year, this number would definitely be much higher if only we could fix our road network. Then the worried 52% might eventually joint the happier minority.

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