Research Rest-Stop │ How Bike Paths and Bike Lanes Can Influence Bicycling Rates

Every Wednesday, the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU) highlights some interesting research related to or innovations in transportation, sustainability, or energy.


A recent study, “Cycling to Work in 90 Large American Cities: New Evidence on the Role of Bike Paths and Lanes,” jointly developed by Virginia Tech and Rutgers University, evaluates how bicycle commuting varies across large American cities. The study uses data on these cities and runs regression models to determine specifically if and how the presence of bike paths and lanes affect the rate of bicycling in particular areas.

The study finds that “cities with safer cycling, lower auto ownership, more students, less sprawl, and higher gasoline prices had more cycling to work.” In addition, “annual precipitation, the number of cold and hot days, and public transport supply were not statistically significant predictors of bike commuting in large cities.”

The study notes that, among the 100 largest cities in the United States, Philadelphia is ranked 7th for the number of bicycle commuters per 1,000 residents, with 7.5 bike commuters per 1,000. While the study identifies Philadelphia as well as other top ten cities in this category, the study primarily focuses on how bicycling facilities and infrastructure across the United States collectively impact the way people travel, specifically by bicycle. For example, the study discusses how American bike paths are more likely to be multi-use paths for use by bicyclists and other non-motorized transportation users, including pedestrians and joggers, while European bike paths are oftentimes reserved only for bicyclists. While the presence of bicycle-only paths is likely due to a higher number of people traveling by bicycle in Europe, this fact highlights how an increase in the number of people using a particular mode of transportation can affect the type of infrastructure investments that are made. For American cities, the report puts into context how bike paths and lanes can generally impact people’s travel decisions and provides helpful research findings for cities looking to develop their bicycle infrastructure and related programs to increase bicycling rates.



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