Do people bike in the rain?
April 24, 2013
A common argument against investing in bicycling infrastructure is that as soon as it starts to rain, there are no bicyclists on the street. This argument makes intuitive sense – if the weather is not pleasant, most people are not willing to brave the elements in order to get to work. But how much of a difference does the weather make?
Previous studies have looked at the level bicycle ridership in different types of weather and have found varied results, for instance a study from San Francisco showed that rain did not deter bicycling, while an Australian study showed specific weather conditions, like rain, heavy winds, and extreme temperature did have a significant impact.
Most recently, a study examined the impact of weather conditions on WashingtonDC’s bikeshare system. The study used Capital Bike Share’s publicly available ridership data and compared it with hourly weather data to determine a relationship between bike share use and rainfall, snow, hot and cold temperatures, humidity, and windspeed.
The results showed that weather events, like rain or snow does significantly deter recreational users from using bikeshare, but these events deterred registered users less, where just over 50% of trips will still occur. This means that a bike share rider who uses Capital Bikeshre as part of his or her commute to work is still likely (although not guaranteed) to use bikeshare, even if it is raining. Furthermore, the results showed that if it raining, commuters are more likely to use public transit or to ride a bike to transit stations, if there is adverse weather.
As Philadelphia continues to gear up for a new citywide bikeshare service it is important know how outside conditions will affect bike ridership, especially between casual users and regular riders. Additionally, it is important to recognize that bikeshare can compliment transit use when it’s raining. So, even though there will be fewer bicyclists on the road, there are still bikes on the street when it’s raining.
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