Oct 12, 2023 - Energy & Environment

America's bicycling hot spots, mapped

Change in average daily bike trips
Data: StreetLight Data; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

Pandemic-era cycling fever appears to be lingering, with the number of average daily bike trips per 1,000 people increasing in almost every major U.S. metro area between 2019-2022.

  • That's per a new report from mobility data firm StreetLight Data, which uses GPS and other location data to measure urban transportation patterns.

The big picture: The annual nationwide average for daily bike trips grew 37% between 2019-2022.

  • Most cycling activity is concentrated in and around big cities — the 100 largest metros accounted for 77% of bike activity nationwide in 2022, up from 72% in 2019.
  • Bike activity increased at least 25% between 2019-2022 in every metro area with about 5 million or more residents, StreetLight found.

Driving the news: Urban cycling took off during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic largely because people were looking for ways to get around or exercise without potentially exposing themselves to infection.

  • Urban bike share programs, like Citi Bike (New York), Capital Bikeshare (Washington, D.C.) and Divvy (Chicago), exploded in popularity during the pandemic, making two-wheelers easier to access.
  • And many cities have been steadily improving their cycling infrastructure, though many are also dealing with a surge in e-bikes, which don't always mesh well with lanes meant for traditional bikes.

Zoom in: When it comes to growth in bike use, the New York City area is king, with 43 more trips per 1,000 people in 2022 compared to 2019.

  • That's likely at least in part because of a boom in "deliveristas," who crisscross the city with hungry denizens' Grubhub and Uber Eats orders.
  • Portland, Oregon, was one of the few big cities where cycling activity decreased, if only slightly (down four trips per 1,000 people).
  • That may seem surprising given the city's longstanding bike culture — but it had less room to grow compared to other cities with a smaller cycling scene.

Reality check: Nationwide growth in bike activity flatlined between 2021-2022, at around 9 million total daily trips on average.

  • Still, even simply holding steady as a post-pandemic normality sets in is a win for bike advocates — and a sign that the COVID bike boom is likely here to stay.

The bottom line: "The flatline in 2022 is a warning that continued investment in safety-focused active transportation infrastructure — especially to support community connectivity, in addition to recreational access — will be critical to re-animating growth," per StreetLight's report.

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