More Evidence That Adding Bike Infrastructure Boosts Biking

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.

Bike commutes rates around Minneapolis' Midtown Greenway soared over the last decade. Photo: Wikipedia
Bike commute rates around the Minneapolis Midtown Greenway soared over the last decade. Photo: Wikipedia

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.

  • carma

    and in other news: the sun rises in the morning and sets at night.

  • I love the phrase in the lede – not “they will come,” which tends to support the myth that there’s an alien species of “cyclists” roaming the country bearing microbrews and leet software skillz, but “they will bike,” implying that infrastructure improves options for new and current residents alike.

    Buuut along those lines I wish this study had been longitudinal, looking at the same individuals both before and after (sort of like this study that found obesity rates decreasing after a light rail line came into part of Charlotte.) Without a longitudinal aspect it seems harder to know how much of the mode shift is due to changed behavior and how much is due to “cyclists” self-selecting homes and destinations along the Midtown Greenway. Also: hard to know how many of the observed health outcomes might actually be due to poorer people being priced out of the area.

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