If you build it, they will bike. That’s the upshot of a new study from researchers at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, examining the effect of bike infrastructure.
Researchers charted bike commuting rates across the Minneapolis area, finding, not surprisingly, that the biggest increases happened near the biggest investments in safe, comfortable bike infrastructure.
The research team examined cycling rates over a 10-year period among residents near the Midtown Greenway, an off-street bikeway running along the city’s south side, which opened in phases beginning in 2000.
They found that bike commute rates skyrocketed among people living within three miles of the greenway, from 1.8 percent to 3.4 percent — an 89 percent increase. Among people living father away, between three and six miles from the greenway, bike commuting rose at a more gradual pace: from 1.2 percent to 1.8 percent — a 50 percent increase.
“These data are supportive, but not proof, that a commitment to urban cycling infrastructure can increase active commuting by bicycle,” study author Penny Gordon-Larsen told the Obesity Society, a collective of scientists studying obesity. Previous research from Portland State University professor Jennifer Dill has shown that streets with bike lanes attract a disproportionate share of total bike traffic.
The findings of the study were presented to the Obesity Society at the group’s annual meeting earlier this month. The full study has not yet been published.