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Expand chart
Reproduced from Streetlight Data; Map: Axios Visuals

Biking in America’s biggest cities has dropped due to the coronavirus pandemic, but the decline is less than for driving, according to new data exclusively shared with Axios.

Why it matters: Skyrocketing bike sales and anecdotal evidence suggests cycling could emerge a winner in the pandemic. But this data suggests a bike boom is — so far — unlikely to materialize or make a dent in oil demand.

Where it stands: Cities where commuting by bike is most common, like New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco, are also the ones that saw the sharpest declines in bike travel in May compared to last year, according to research from Streetlight Data, a transportation analytics firm.

  • “The commuting slice that falls out of cities like New York and San Francisco where that mileage on bikes is just not there because bike commuting isn’t there," said Martin Morzynski, Streetlight’s vice president of marketing. "And recreational activity isn’t necessarily enough to offset the difference."
  • The data shows, though, that cycling dropped less than driving. In Portland, Ore., for example, bike miles traveled fell by 10%, but vehicular miles traveled dropped by 35%.

The intrigue: Cycling doubled in smaller cities, including some known more for recreational cycling, including Ogden and Provo, Utah. The baseline number of bike miles traveled is far less than it is for larger metropolitan areas though, Morzynski says.

How it works: Streetlight Data uses location-based data, essentially pings from cell-phone apps, that can differentiate between driving, cycling and walking based on the cadence of pings.

What we’re watching: Although we know bike sales are skyrocketing, we don’t know if people will actually end up riding them long-term. The data suggests those bikes will start collecting dust soon. “It might be like the kid who buys the toy and throws it out a week later,” said Morzynski. “Our hope is that this actually starts to create new habits.”

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Hoboken goes all in on bike share programs

Axios' Ina Fried (l) and Hoboken, N.J., Mayor Ravinder Bhalla. Photo: Axios

Hoboken, N.J., Mayor Ravinder Bhalla said at an Axios virtual event Friday that the city is ramping up its bike-share program with Citi Bike to make commuting to Manhattan and Jersey City easier.

Why it matters: Hoboken is the fifth-most densely populated city in the country and many of its residents use public transit. Fear of using public transit is still high during the coronavirus pandemic.

Biden gets mixed grades on revolving door

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

President Biden is getting mixed marks for his reliance on industry insiders to staff his administration during its first 100 days.

Why it matters: Progressives have leaned on the new president to limit the revolving door between industry and government. A new report from the Revolving Door Project praises him on that front but highlights key hires it deems ethically questionable.

Exclusive: Sen. Coons sees new era of bipartisanship on China

Sen. Chris Coons. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

The Jan. 6 insurrection was a "shock to the system," propelling members of Congress toward the goal of shoring up America's ability to compete with China, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told Axios during an interview Thursday.

Why it matters: Competition between China's authoritarian model and the West's liberal democratic one is likely to define the 21st century. A bipartisan response would help the U.S. present a united front.