How many Americans ride a bike? How often do they ride? Why do they ride?
Accurate information on bicycling participation is essential in evaluating our overall work and the effectiveness of our programs and key projects. Existing research on bicycling participation has been been limited to either recreational riding or transportation riding of certain types. This new participation research, commissioned by PeopleForBikes and conducted by Breakaway Research Group, is designed to address these limitations by standardizing how participation is bicycling of any kind, by any type of rider, is measured and tracked over time.
- Thirty-two percent of Americans ages 3+ rode a bicycle at least one day in the past year.
- Of those who rode a bicycle, 29% rode five days or fewer.
- Those who rode for transportation are much more likely to have done so to get to and from social, recreation, or leisure activities (73%) than to have commuted to and from work or school (51%).
- Half of adults in the U.S. don’t have access to an operational bicycle at home.
- Fifty-four percent of adults in the U.S. perceive bicycling as a convenient way to get from one place to another and 51% would like to ride more often. However, 53% worry about being hit by a car and 47% say they would be more likely to ride a bicycle if motor vehicles and bicycles were physically separated.
More than 80% of bicycle retailers who responded to our survey said bike advocacy makes bicycling easier, safer, and more widespread. 60% of the respondents said advocacy leads to more sales in their stores.
These were the key findings of a summer 2009 survey of 116 bicycle retailers from 34 states.
Believing in bike advocacy and supporting it are two different things, but this survey showed that bicycle retailers are likely to do both. Nearly 80% of the retailers said that they are members of an advocacy organization, either locally or at the state or national level, and 59% said supporting bike advocacy is even more important to them now than it was five years ago. Most retailers said that they contribute between $1,000 and $5,000 annually to bike advocacy, including cash, product, and staff time.
For bicycle suppliers who partner with retailers to maximize sales, understanding what retailers think about bike advocacy is key. Nearly 80% of retailers surveyed said it is important for the brands they carry to support advocacy, and more than 25% said they would stop carrying a brand if it stopped supporting advocacy.
In conjunction with the 2010 Bicycle Leadership Conference, we surveyed more than 2,000 cycling enthusiasts—including nearly 500 women—about their bicycling habits, purchases, and experiences. Questions on the main survey related to:
- Most recent and future bicycle purchases
- Frequency of riding
- Participation in other outdoor activities
- Satisfaction with bicycling facilities
- Transportation riding: frequency and factors that discourage it
- Advocacy membership
- Online presence
- Age and gender
Female respondents took a second, women-only survey, with questions that involved:
- Type of cycling
- Riding partners
- Participation in women-only events
- Women's-specific products
- Shopping habits and experiences
Recreational road bicycling events are popular all across the United States. Participants are inspired by the opportunities to improve fitness, have fun, and raise money and awareness for a variety of important causes. Bikes Belong conducted a survey of U.S. recreational bike-event promoters in order to estimate the size, number, and direct economic impact of these rides in 2008, and also to learn more about how these events benefit communities and causes nationwide.
- More than 1,700 U.S. recreational road riding events were organized in 2008
- More than 1 million Americans participated in recreational road riding events in 2008
- Total 2008 revenue from recreational road riding events topped $240 million
- Two-thirds of these ‘08 rides were tied to a cause, raising nearly $200 million total
- Riders spent nearly $140 million on food, lodging, and other purchases at these events
Recreational riding events are important to the communities that host them, the causes they support, and the bike industry nationwide.
For little-to-no cash investment, communities can benefit economically from recreational bicycling events of all sizes. The $140 million in direct participant spending is only a portion of the greater economic impact these rides bring to host communities across the U.S. One study estimated that each ride participant generates $535 in direct economic impact, which would total $572 million based on our participation figures.1
The majority of these rides also raise money for causes big and small. The average ride raises nearly $12,000 for charity, with some of the bigger charity rides bringing in tens of millions of dollars for worthy causes.
The bike industry also gains from recreational riding events. These rides are often “gateway” events into the activity of bicycling. Participation in recreational road rides is nearly 20 times the number of registered bike racers in the U.S. (55,392).2 To get a sense of how the growth of recreational road riding events could benefit the bike industry, consider this fact: in 2008, the average participant in Iowa’s RAGBRAI ride spent $950 on bicycle purchases specifically for RAGBRAI and $179 on bike clothing and accessories for the ride.3 That’s a total of more than $19 million spent annually on bicycle products for a single event.
1 “The Economic Power of the NBTDA,” Gluskin Townley Group, NBTDA Annual Conference, November 7, 2008
2 “Active Member Demographics,” USA Cycling, November 3, 2009, http://www.usacycling.org/corp/demographics.php
3 “The Economic Impact & Spectator Characteristics of RAGBRAI,” Lankford, S., et al., December 20, 2008
Freestyle BMX is growing increasingly popular, but bike access to skateparks remains a problem. We surveyed nearly 100 skatepark managers from 30 states to learn why bike use is restricted and what strategies support shared use.
Of the skateparks that responded to the survey, 46% deny access to BMX riders, citing concerns such as liability, user con?ict, and facility damage. Nearly all of these reasons for denying bike access relate to park design. Often, parks weren’t designed for BMX use because bikers didn’t participate in the planning, fundraising and construction processes. Park managers are often open to reviewing their policy on bikes; but, rules only change when the bike community is well organized, professional and engaged. The survey also found that some parks are prohibited from allowing bikes by their insurance or park warranty.
Fifty-four percent of the skateparks surveyed said they’ve successfully integrated biking and skating. What works?
- Seventy-six percent of these parks use and recommend unrestricted schedules for bikers and skaters.
- Although 67% said that bike-related wear and tear is observed, most indicated that their parks are designed to withstand bike use.
- Forty-two percent require or suggest park-friendly pegs and pedals.
- It’s beneficial to have leaders of both user groups who set a positive and cooperative example.
BMX is important to the future of the U.S. bike industry. It appeals to kids, doesn’t have to cost much, and is suitable for both rural and urban environments. Additionally, studies have shown that involvement in BMX acts as a “gateway sport,” often the first step to a lifetime of interest in cycling. Increasing the number of parks that allow BMX riding will guarantee riders a legal, safe, and fun place to practice and play.
What happened to bicycling levels and bike sales last time gas prices spiked in 2008? What might happen now that gas prices are rising above $4/gallon again? Our one-page document, Gas Prices and Bicycling, explains what we believe about how high fuel prices affect bicycling in the U.S.
We also completed a survey of more than 150 bicycle retailers from nearly 40 states to see if their summer 2008 sales reflected an increase in the use of bicycles for transportation.
The majority of retailers who responded said their sales of transportation-related bicycles, accessories, and service have increased in 2008 compared to 2007:
- 73% said they are selling more bikes.
- 84% said they are selling more accessories.
- 88% said they are selling more service.
Is this increase in sales because of high gas prices? Most retailers who we surveyed think so:
- 95% of shops said customers cited high gas prices as a reason for their transportation-related purchases.
- 80% of retailers said gas prices were helping them sell more bikes for transportation.
- 86% thought accessory sales were getting a boost.
- 89% said they were selling more service because of high gas prices.
Many new customers are dusting off old bikes and bringing them in for repair. There appears to be a surge of interest in riding bicycles for short trips, errands, and commuting.
These survey results paint a clear picture of bicycling as a simple, affordable transportation solution and reinforce the need to create safe, appealing places to ride. Now is a prime time to encourage people to use bikes for transportation. It’s good for the wallet, health, the environment—and it’s fun.