Cycling Rates Remain High Across the Country

The bike boom that began during the pandemic shows no signs of abating, according to a new report.

December 1, 2021, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Dearborn Street Bike Lane

Steven Vance / flickr

Despite doubts that the cycling boom of the early pandemic would continue, writes Jason Plautz, a report from Streetlight Data shows that cycling rates remain high across the country, rising 10 percent in 2021 over 2020.

Experts caution that high ridership rates will stick around only if cities support robust bike infrastructure and other policies that encourage biking over driving, particularly in dense neighborhoods where people take frequent short trips.

There was no single story across the country, [vice president of marketing for StreetLight Data Martin] Morzynski said, but there was a clear correlation between infrastructures like protected bike lanes or open streets and bike traffic. For example, he said, Des Moines, Iowa, saw its bike traffic increase 49% in 2020 and it is still up 30% in 2021 compared to 2019, even as people resume commuting. That, he said, is in part because of the city's existing network of trails leading into downtown that make it easier for new riders to commute.

Meanwhile, cities with "more established bike culture" often saw a drop in ridership due to some regular bike commuters staying home. Even so, many big cities took the opportunity to install new bike infrastructure during the pandemic lull, paving the way for safer streets and more transportation options. Morzynski suggests "a comprehensive approach that allows you to identify where best to invest and make priorities sets you up to be responsive for changes when traffic patterns shift again."

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