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The 71 Percent Solution

Published February 19, 2009

Thanks to Kate Scheider at Bikes Belong, I just discovered an enlightening piece of research on bicycling and walking. Commissioned by the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), executed by the Gallup organization, and released in August 2008, it’s a treasure trove of how Regular Americans use and view their bicycles. Click here to download the .pdfs.

Some of the stats are pretty much expected. Almost twice as many men as women ride regularly. More people ride in the Midwest, Mountain and Pacific states than in the Southeast. 

Other stats vary from surprising to shocking. Here are three, “Who woulda thunk it?” numbers: 

• People who ride in urban areas consider bicycling safer than those who ride in suburbia 

• More non-bicyclists favor helmet requirements for adults than do bicyclists 

• 24% of bicyclists ride against traffic rather than with it (please, no “thinning the gene pool” remarks)

My favorite stat from this research: 71% of Americans want to bicycle more than they do now. Wow, what a huge opportunity for all of us. In contrast, a recent NBDA stat shows that the #1 problem identified by bike retailers is competition from the Internet. Let’s chase the 71% rather than the 1%! 

As an industry, we tend to go by the “seat of the pants” in so many areas. As someone who would rather pore over these numbers than watch the Tour of California on TV, I’ve got to be considered an oddball. 

But if you care about the future of cycling in America, and your business depends on that future, I hope you’ll scan through these documents and see what you can learn about your customers and how they view bicycling. Don’t push PRINT, though, the three combined .pdfs contain 341 pages! 

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