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PeopleForBikes releases third Bicycling Participation Study

Published April 4, 2019
Too early to talk about trends, but the 2018 study validates previous findings.

BOULDER, Colo. (BRAIN) — Sometime next year, PeopleForBikes will release its fourth Bicycling Participation Study results and the organization's research director, Jen Boldry, will be ready to talk about trends in bicycle use in America. Until then, Boldry is careful to say the study results provide a snapshot picture of bike use, but can't be used to show whether bike use is going up or down.

The report released this year, called the 2018 Participation Study, is based on nearly 15,000 online survey responses collected from adults last November. The responses were weighted for gender age, region, ethnicity and income and has an overall margin of error of less than +/- 1% at a 95% confidence level. The methodology is described on the PeopleForBikes website

The third study was conducted in the same manner as the previous two so they can be compared. And study number 3 found very similar results as numbers 1 and 2. For example, the newest study found 32% of Americans ages three and over rode a bicycle at least one day in the past year. The 2017 study came up with the same number, while the 2015 study put the figure at 34%. We can't talk about trends, but the similar figures add validity to the methodology.

There's a lot in the reports about why people ride and why they don't, broken down by demographics, but that one ridership figure — that a third of Americans, 98 million of them, ride bikes — has already become a go-to stat cited by bike advocates and business planners. Go ahead and use it at your next city council meeting when arguing for better bike facilities. Or toss it into your next business plan — we know for a fact it's been done many times since PeopleForBikes released the first participation study in 2015.

One ridership figure — that a third of Americans, 98 million of them, ride bikes — has already become a go-to stat for advocates.

It's notable that the PeopleForBikes’ number is almost 20 points higher than the figure folks had been citing for years. The National Sporting Goods Association leisure activity study, which the NSGA has been conducting annually for more than 30 years, says roughly 12% of Americans participate in bicycling. The discrepancy is easily explained: The NSGA defines bicycling participants as those age 6 and older who ride six or more times a year, while PeopleForBikes counts those age 3 or more who rode at least once in the last year.

Other findings from the latest report:

  • Those who rode for transportation are much more likely to have done so to get to and from social, recreation, or leisure activities (71%) than to have commuted to and from work or school (51%).
  • Half of adults in the U.S. don’t have access to an operational bicycle at home.
  • Forty-seven percent of adults in the U.S. want to ride more often and 48% perceive bicycling as a convenient way to get from one place to another. However, 50% worry about being hit by a car and 43% say they would be more likely to ride a bicycle if motor vehicles and bicycles were physically separated.
  • Watch for more about the study in the May 1 edition of BRAIN.

Download the report

Related: BRAIN's August 2017 print article about the second participation study results.

Source: PeopleForBikes' 2018 US Bicycling Participation Study.

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